“As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.'”
Because of their illness, these lepers couldn’t come near to Jesus to ask for help privately. Culturally and legally. They had to stand far away and yell, hoping someone might have mercy and help them. To everyone their illness is public knowledge; and so by everyone they are judged as insufficient, lacking, unworthy, even sinful.
These ten lepers have to live this way–separated, isolated, humiliated–and have to do so publicly. They are considered broken and flawed people, and these inadequacies are revealed publicly every day.
Can you imagine if our brokenness and our inadequacies were made public? Can you imagine if your deepest flaws and failings were out in the open for everyone to see and judge? We all want to hide our frailites, keep them private, but we all have them. Make no mistake, everyone in this room has the fear that comes from knowing we don’t measure up. And we all live with the terror that our deep fractures will become known.
That which the lepers longed to be private has become public. However, when their flaws became known to Jesus, they are made clean. They are restored. They are shown mercy. This is what Jesus does. He makes us clean, restores us. Jesus meets us in those areas of our lives we desperately want to remain hidden and shows us mercy. It’s in the hidden parts of our lives–those parts we desperately want to keep private–that Jesus knows us most deeply. It’s there that his love for us makes the biggest difference.
I think many of us would agree to that in theory. Jesus knows the innermost, private pieces of our lives, meets us there, and redeems us. Day by day, Jesus continues to save us. That’s how forgiveness works. That’s how mercy works. That’s how all the gifts of God work. Jesus does his most loving and gracious redemption in the hidden, private aspects of our lives.
And, for the most part, we’re fine with that. As long as Jesus heals us, redeems us, saves us privately.
But we have a universal terror: that our private deficiencies will become public. Can you imagine how that which you never talk about became known to everyone? Take a simple example: can you imagine, for instance, if your checkbook became available for anyone to examine? Can you imagine if we were categorized according to our credit card debt? Can you imagine if we were judged according to the percentage of our income that we give away? Like the lepers, can you imagine keeping your distance from everyone because you made too many extravagant purchases?
If the private, hidden aspects of our lives–such as our finances–became public, it would be humiliating. Yet it’s in the secrecy of our finances that Jesus comes and makes us clean, makes us whole, saves us. Just like all our flaws, we keep our finances hidden. But Jesus comes among us to save our financial selves too. That doesn’t mean more money–it has nothing to do with amounts of money. Like every other part of who we are, Jesus meets us and cleanses us, save us, so that we can be part of God’s salvation in the world.
Imagine your hidden, secret money life being redeemed by Jesus. Imagine how differently we would live if we understood our money’s primary purpose as revealing mercy and grace in the world. The more secretive we are about our money, the more Jesus meets us there to heal us.
In the gospel reading, one leper–a Samaritan–returns and falls at Jesus’ feet giving thanks to God. But all ten are made clean. One recognized the gift of salvation he had received. But all ten were made new by Jesus.
Your response to Jesus’ salvation in up to you. Your response won’t change how Jesus feels about you. It won’t change your forgiveness. It won’t change your worth as a child of God. Regardless, Jesus is present for you. Even now he’s meeting you in the hidden and secret parts of your life–including your money. He is cleansing you. He is making you whole. He is saving you. Thanks be to God. Amen.