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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Why did this leper return? Simply put, he came back to give thanks. He was polite. He was doing the right thing. Yet our Lord said to him, “Your faith has made you well.” He was not talking about physical well-being. Faith did not cure him of leprosy. The Word of our Lord did that, even as it also cured the nine who did not return. He spoke and they were all clean. This man returned and worshiped Jesus and was healed by faith in body and soul. All ten were healed of leprosy, but only one had faith. His faith saved him. The others were healed but not saved.
Why are you here today? Some come to church out of obligation, a response to the Law. Some feel they owe God and He wants them here to pay up. And maybe they hope to butter Him up, to stave off future disasters, maybe make up for past sins. All of that is fine. It is the natural response to the Law—like how people filled churches after 9/11. The Law threatens to punish anyone who breaks God’s commandments, and one of them is to worship. The Law should get a reaction. But the problem is that, while the outward response is good, it is never good enough. It always falls short. The Law is an impossible standard. You have heard it said that you shall not murder, but Jesus says that if you have hated anyone, you are guilty. You have heard it said that you shall not commit adultery, but Jesus says that if you have lusted, you are guilty. The Law does its work by accusing and convicting, by killing. It breaks you. It empties you of excuses and vanity.
Ten lepers stood far off and cried for mercy. They wanted a cure for leprosy, the restoration of their flesh, health, reunion with their friends and family, a place in society. He gave them all of that. But their desire was too small. They did not understand their own prayer. His mercy would go further. It would not stop until they were completely healed. He would clean their souls, adopt them as sons, keep them safe in His perfect love. His mercy would not fall short. It would drive Him to the cross to exchange His life for theirs. There is nothing He would not give those ten lepers, nothing too good for them. After all, He loved them. He loved them without their prayer. He loved them without their thanksgiving. He took care of everything for them.
He cares no less for you. Praise is like all the other good works you do: you offer them in weakness. God knows why you have come. He knows your weakness. But before you can offer your praise, He forgives you. He cleanses you. He feeds you. And then He looks upon your prayers and praises. He purifies them. He loves them. He is well-pleased in you for them. His death and resurrection perfect all the things you do—even when you come to worship for the wrong reason. The Law does its work so that God can have His way with you. He is gracious and merciful. You come into this place carrying sins that you don’t even remember, and you cry out for mercy. As He has done this very day for Carsyn, He has washed you clean in the waters of Holy Baptism. He speaks His Word of forgiveness. Even more than that, He sends you to the true Temple, to His own body and blood. He forgives you, heals you…restores you. He is glad you are here, no matter what it is that brings you. You may only be here to say thank you and be on your way, to drop your money in the plate and move on. But He intervenes and cleans your soul. He speaks and you are free.
Give thanks this day by receiving what He gives in His Body and His Blood. Your faith, that ultimate gift of grace, has saved you. There is nothing to pay, nothing to do. You are free. You are saved by grace. His mercy endures forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.