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18 Pentecost 13 - Luke 17:11-19

What Martin Luther said about individuals is also true of the church.

Together as a community we are simul justus et peccator – saintly and sinful at

the same time.

We are, Saint Paul insists, the body of Christ, the presence of Jesus now in the world.

We are also, Luther reminds us, a hospital for sinners.

We are Jesus, and we are lepers.

Especially in recent years, I have heard the body of Christ ask the same question many

times and many ways.

The other nine, where are they?

Sunday morning worship attendance continues to dwindle; now folks who come once or twice a month are considered regulars.

On any given weekend, it feels like nine out of ten people are somewhere else, and Jesus

wonders where they are.

What could be more pressing than praise?

What is more important or true than returning thanks to God?

Are they okay?

Are they lost?

The master who told the story about a woman who lost one of ten coins now asks:

Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?

The other nine, where are they?

I have some theories.

Presumably, they all take off to show themselves to the priests, doing exactly

what Jesus told them to do.

If the priests pronounce them clean, they can re-enter society.

They can hug their children again.

They can touch their lovers and enter shops and greet neighbors and live in the world

outside the prison walls of their colony of quarantine.

The possibility is almost too much to hope, much less to process.

So some of them don't even notice they are made clean on the way.

Others do notice and race even faster to the priests.

Still others notice and stop in their tracks.

Should they continue on to the priests, because that would change their life forever.

Could they handle life outside the colony?

Would they end up like Brooks, the prisoner in The Shawshank Redemption who got out

and then killed himself when freedom was too heavy to bear?

They stand now in the wilderness between slavery and the promised land and think back

to the comforts of Egypt.

Do they want to be healed?

That comes with so much change and responsibility and expectation.

Why praise God or thank Jesus for a healing they never asked for because deep down,

they know they don't want it or can't handle it.

They worry as they walk back to the leper colony whether or not they will now be

allowed to come home.

They asked Jesus for mercy, but he had done them wrong, just like the church has done to

so many people who get something different than what they were looking for.

So the body of Christ turns and blesses the one who shows up to kneel and pray and sing