Sermon: “On the Verge of a Miracle”

“On the Verge of a Miracle”
Luke 17:11-19
Twenty-First Sunday of Pentecost
October 13, 2013
First Christian Church
Mahtomedi, MN

liminalI grew up in very unusual area. My home town of Flint is about an hour West and South of Canada. Yes, you heard me correctly, South to Canada. Detroit is the only place in America where one can look due South into Canada. The town of Windsor, Ontario sits on the Canadian side of the Detroit River. Because Detroit is on a border, this means that people commute between the two nations on a daily basis. Windsor, like its American cousin, has several auto plants in the area.

Because I lived near a border, I’ve noticed how much the boundaries have started to merge. It wasn’t unusual to see cars with Ontario license plates at local stores. I grew up watching CBET or channel 9 from Windsor. A lot of folks would watch Hockey Night in Canada, but being the news geek that I am, I watched the evening news almost every night at 10 while in high school and college..

Crossing a boundary, especially a land crossing is fascinating. Of course we cross boundaries when we fly, but that kind of crossing doesn’t feel real in the same way that crossing by land does. Crossing by land is like being able to go through the looking glass; to enter another reality that is different from your own. I’ve never done a land crossing to Mexico, but I have done crossings to Canada and it does feel like entering through a mirror to an altnerate universe.

As I look at today’s text in Luke, the thing that comes to mind is the fact that Jesus is hanging around the border between Judea and Samaria. I’ve not been to Israel, but I could imagine the border between Judea and Samaria was a lot like the US-Mexico border. I could imagine a lot of mixing, but also some apprehension of those people on the other side. So Jesus was walking around and he meets up with 10 men with leprosy. They please with Jesus to heal them. Now, when the Bible talks about leprosy, they are actually talking about a host of skin diseases and in that time, persons with skin problems were considered unclean and asked to stay away from others. A border had come up around them separating them from the rest of the population.

Jesus sees the group and simply tells them to show themselves to the priest. The temple priest was not just a religious figure, but also a health inspector. Showing themselves to the priest was a way of getting the “seal’ of approval. Along the way, all ten men realize that they no longer have a skin disease. Joyous, nine of the men continued on to see the priest, probably excited of being let back into the community.

But one of the men didn’t continue onward. The other nine men were Jewish, but the last one was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans didn’t like each other and in this case, a Samaritan would not ever been deemed clean by Jewish priest. So, this guy was doubly an outcast. not simply because of his health, but also because of his heritage. Showing himself to the priest was not going to happen, so instead he decided to reach the person responsible for healing him: Jesus.

Jesus responds by wondering why was it that this Samaritan is the only one who gave thanks to God. The story ends with Jesus looking at the Samaritan and saying “your faith has made you well.”

This story is all about boundaries, borders and no-man’s lands. There was the border between Judea and Samaria. Then there is the border between Jews and Samaritans and finally there is the borders between those who had no illness and those who had an illness that made them unclean.

As humans we like to have things spelled out. Unclean here, clean there. Whites up front and blacks in the rear. Conservatives live in this town and liberals in another. Borders aren’t necessarily bad, and sometimes they are needed. But sadly, sometimes borders keep the “wrong” kind of persons out. The lepers were shut out of society and stuck in this middle place between normal life and the end of life itself.

So now I’m going to share a word that you don’t hear a lot: “liminal.” It’s not a word you hear every day, so let me give you the definition or definitions: of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.2.occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. In matters of faith liminal means being located in a separated sacred space, which occupies a sacred time.

The ten lepers were entering a liminal time, the threshold of something great. They met with Jesus at a certain time and place and left that experience changed. But only one understood that this was a liminal moment a sacred time where the Samaritan had to give Jesus thanks.

Borders are places that are threshold places, places where we leave the familiar to head into something new.

I believe this faith community, First Christian, is in a liminal time. We are in-between things a time where we leave the things we know so well, and heading into the unknown. Liminal spaces can be scary, precisely because we don’t know what is going to happen next. But we also serve a God who in Jesus smashed the walls that kept people separated. It is this God who is with us in this middle ground. This time can be a holy time when we are aware of God’s presence.

As we continue being church during this middle time, I pray that we can be aware of God being with us. I pray that we can be present with God and to see what God will do next.

I want to end this with a song from the late Christian recording artist Rich Mullins. As I was preparing this sermon, a song of Mullins came into my mind. It’s called “Verge of a Miracle” and here’s the chorus:

You’re on the verge of a miracle
Standing there – oh –
You’re on the verge of a miracle
Just waiting to be believed in
Open your eyes and see
You’re on the verge of a miracle

God is about to do something great, we are at the threshold. Let’s be present for it. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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