St. James' Episcopal Church
Our 158th Year
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Sermon for October 14th, 2007
Sermon for October 14th, 2007
St. James - Goshen, IN
We have heard part of the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. Naomi was married, lived in Bethlehem and had two sons. Both sons married and lived east across the Jordan River in Moab. Naomi’s husband died, and Naomi by custom moved to live with her sons. Both sons died. Again by custom a widowed woman without sons would have to move to her father’s house or one of her brothers, and live as a servant. But Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi, refused to go back to her father’s house and goes back to Bethlehem with Naomi saying the famous line,” Your God is my God, where you die, I will die“.
By Jewish custom, proof of Jewish heritage is from the mother, not the father. For Jesus to be Jewish, his mother Mary had to be proven Jewish. Hence the genealogy of Jesus is shown following Mary’s family in the Gospel of Luke. Strangely, in the Gospel of Matthew, a more Jewish text, the genealogy is from Joseph’s family. In the Ruth story the faith of Naomi passed to her daughter-in-law. Faith is passed from one generation to another. Faith caught, not taught.
So why is the Ruth story of caught faith important enough to be in the Bible? The sweet little story of a old widow being cared for by her dead son’s wife, is nice, but so what.
Jewishness is caught from mother to child. Ruth later married a wealthy man of Bethlehem and they had a son, Jesse. That son could not really be Jewish since his mother was a Moabite. Jesse lived as a faithful Jew, and had many sons. But since Jesse’s mother, Ruth was not really Jewish since she grew up in Moab, Jesse was questionablely Jewish. Jesse’s youngest son was David. So when David was about to be King there was great question if he was really Jewish since his grandmother was a Moabite. Political spin doctors are nothing new; the 10th century BC spin doctors had to have a great story about how the Moabite Grandmother of David became a real Jewish woman. “Your God is my God.” Is the affirmation of a foreigner gaining “afilliative faith” moving to “discerning faith” on to “mature faith.”
In the Gospel, Jesus was walking from Galilee toward Jerusalem and passed through the area of Samaria. By custom Jews did not talk, touch or even look at Samaritans, those awful foreigners. Actually the Samaritans were people who were not taken to Babylon as slaves and had slightly different religious practice than the returned remnant. But the Samaritans were hated by the Jews. While Jesus was going through Samaria, ten people with leprosy came to him seeking to be cleansed from that terrible and contagious disease. Jesus cleansed all ten, but only one thanked him. And the one was a Samaritan. Jesus extended his healing power beyond the Jews. Jesus ministered to those in need even if they were not among the religious community. And the Samaritan thanked him. Jesus said to him “Go you way, your faith has made you well.”
The others with leprosy were cleansed just as the Samaritan. But Jesus said your faith has made you well. We all are cleansed from sin. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. God expressed forgiveness for sins with the death and resurrection of Jesus. But some of us realize that we have been cleansed from sin by Jesus and return to him with thanks. It is that returning with thanks and the expression of faith that makes us Well. All are forgiven, cleansed, but only the ones who return with thanks are made really well.
Faith is extended beyond the family of God, the family of Israel, to Ruth the Moabite, the Samaritan cleansed of leprosy, to the gentile world, to us. Sins are forgiven, come and return thanks and be well by faith in God’s forgiveness and salvation.
Thanks be to God.
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