The “Confessing” Samaritan

A few weeks ago during a dark time I asked a Lutheran pastor for some Gospel as I needed some desperately.  He reminded me of the thankful Samaritan who was cured by Christ and that when Jesus called the man “a foreigner” he was not separating him from the Body of the Church but welcoming him in.

As I took a look at that text more deeply I realized that they concept of “foreigner” or “outsider” is pivotal to the meaning of the account.  The text is as follows:

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance  and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’  And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’

Sadly, this text is usually assigned to Thanksgiving services and, therefore, draw the pastor to the theme of “giving thanks.”  The nine, of course, are chastised for not being grateful.

But being thankful is not the point of this text.  Rather, confessing Christ is.

The nine do nothing wrong here.  When Jesus asks, “where are the nine?” the answer is simple.  They are on the way to the temple, as Jesus Himself ordered, where they will praise God for their recovery according to the commands of God in the Old Testament.

The difference is that the Samaritan RETURNS to give thanks to God while the other nine continue on their way. I can not help but think of the distress caused to the Samaritan when he was told to go and show himself to the priests.  He is told to go to a temple where he will be treated worse than even a tax collector.  Will the priests even be willing to talk to him?  Will they be willing to offer the required sacrifice?  Or will they scorn him as an outsider and an enemy?  His must have been a frightening experience, the start of his journey to Jerusalem.  Until he saw he was healed.  It is BECAUSE he was an outsider that he was able to stop his journey.  It was BECAUSE he was an outsider than he was able to return while the others were emotionally and culturally locked into continuing their journey back to the temple and back into their homes and communities.

In returning, the Samaritan makes a grand confession.  He does not need to go to the temple, a place where he would be despised and rejected, to give thanks to God.  He can and will return to Him who is God in human flesh and offer his praise there, instead.  This Jesus of Nazareth is the true temple and the true priest because He is God incarnate.  This moment is an encapsulation of the entire 2nd article. It is not his gratefulness that makes the Samaritan unique but the confession he proclaims when he RETURNS to JESUS in order to praise GOD!

Dr Mark Yarhouse, on his blog for October 9th, mentions an opportunity he had to talk with a congregation about his upcoming book “Costly Obedience.”  He said:

“The most poignant moment for me: One young man came up to me after one of the talks and asked about what gay Christians bring to the church. He was referencing a comment I made about the gifts I’ve seen among friends of mine who are gay. I shared some of the findings from our forthcoming book, Costly Obedience, in which we discuss some of the unique experiences of celibate gay Christians and how those unique experiences can potentially lead to qualities that may ultimately enhance the Body of Christ. He said he was in tears listening to the idea that he might bring something of value to the church, that by stewarding his same-sex sexuality he might not only derive a personal Christian history of God’s provision in his life, but he too could have something of great value to offer other Christians.”

I began thinking, what can we, celibate gay Christians offer the Church?

I think one thing we can offer is the confession of the Samaritan.  We go to churches which, often, feel uncomfortable, or at least confused, at our presence who struggle to offer Gospel and grace and friendship.  But we still go.  We go because there is where Jesus is.  There is where His word is preached and his presence resides in the Eucharist.  We go because we confess He is God and He is Savior.  As we go, we confess the 2nd article.

We confess the third article – the Body of Christ.  Even though we feel uncomfortable and certainly feel like lesser members of the Body, nevertheless, it is the cross, not our feelings, that make us members of the Church.  And so we go where the Body of Christ gathers.  And we thereby confess “I believe in one Holy Apostolic Church…..

We confess the beauty of marriage.  The world and the Church have turned marriage into an idol even while reducing it to a game of self satisfaction and selfish fulfillment.  By refraining from marrying those with whom we may fall in love, we confess that marriage is indeed a unique relationship created by God to exist between one man and one woman.  At the same time, while remaining single, we confess that marriage is not the ultimate source of identity and satisfaction.  It is not an idol to be worshiped,  Marriage and family are not the be all and end all of vocation and Christians sanctification.  We confess marriage but we confess it in its proper place, as a great good but not the greatest good.

Like the Samaritan, our unique position as semi-outsiders, far from being a curse, gives us the opportunity, the vocation if you will, of making a great confession – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  God, in His grace has welcomed us outsiders as members of His Body.  We in turn can confess by praising Him in Christ.

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