[Our worship this Sunday features the work of Mercy Ships; so if you are reading this on-line, do visit their web-site – click here. There is more about them on the Mission notice board in the hall.]
The Gospel reading set for this Sunday (Luke 17, vv11-19) points up the underlying message of Mercy Ships. Not only do they provide physical healing but also offer the love of God in Christ who heals (makes well) the whole person.
In this story Jesus and his friends encounter ten lepers as they are journeying to Jerusalem. Lepers were outcasts, not least because they were disfigured as well as infectious. So, as we read, they knew their place and ‘kept their distance’. But Jesus did not turn away from them but instead he invoked the healing power of God and sent them off to the local priests who could certify that they were healed. And they were.
Then just one of them thought to return to thank Jesus, ‘praising God with a loud voice’. Jesus asked him ‘where are the others?’ But he could not answer, probably because as mainstream Jews they had gone off to their own families, leaving the one Samaritan alone – for the Jews did not mix with Samaritans if they could avoid it. And Jesus offers this Samaritan a gift even more precious: ‘your faith has made you well’ he says. The other nine were healed but this one was truly made well, body, mind and spirit.
Many of us are in thrall to one or more physical conditions, some worse than others and living with pain most days. And for most of us the wonders of modern medical science will relieve the worst of that pain and enable us to get on with life. But true well-being – that’s something else and always has been. The staff of Mercy Ships always seek to heal the whole person, and that is what God wants for us. When Jesus told that grateful Samaritan ‘your faith has made you well’ a whole new life became possible for him.
Maybe Luke was indeed a doctor as ancient tradition has it; not that this meant the range of skills we enjoy today. But you can read between the lines as Luke the gospel-writer spells out what really happened: this story is about anyone who encounters Jesus and is ‘made well’: it could be you.
Revd Peter Brain