Sunday, October 13, 2019 – Pentecost 18

October 13, 2019  

Pentecost 18 2019

Our Savior’s La Crosse

Luke 17:11-19


“Your faith has made you well.”

(Luke 17:19)

Jesus spoke the words to an unknown Samaritan leper.

“Your faith has made you well.”

The Samaritan was in a liminal place.


According to the word “liminal” is an adjective describing when one occupies “a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.”

I got the idea of using this term from a pastor who wrote a commentary on today’s parable that was published in the Christian Century (September 25, 2019 p. 19).

The pastor wrote:

“Jesus meets people in this liminal space of the border. Ten men approach    and ask him to have mercy on them. They are lepers seeking healing, at the     border between clean and unclean. They don’t want to be on the unclean           side—they want, they need, to be healed. They are tired of being separated      from families and friends. Then Jesus shows up…”

I grew up in a town outside of Rockford, IL, just south of the Illinois/Wisconsin border. My mom’s younger brother and his family lived about 25 minutes north of us, just across the border on the WI side. I remember going to visit them and riding bikes on the county road, crossing back and forth over the state border. Back and forth. In WI. In IL. In WI. In IL. In WI…

Borders seem arbitrary. And yet they wield so much power.

Living in the first century as Jesus did, the boundary between clean and unclean was legal as well as religious. There were “laws of uncleanness” (“Clean and Unclean” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible” volume 1 p. 644). Apparently,

“The appearance of swellings, eruptions, and raw sores on a formerly clear skin has an uncanny quality, which to the ancient mind indicated the work             of evil powers or divine judgment on sin. The horrible effects of leprosy…   heightened the impression of mysterious forces at work…and brought them       into the realm of the unclean… which lasted until a cure was obtained or        the sufferer died” (ibid).

The ten lepers in this morning’s story lived in that liminal place, at the border between clean and unclean, waiting, hoping, longing for a cure.

Then Jesus showed up.

Note: all ten lepers were healed.

Note: only one was “made well” (Luke 17:19).

His faith made him well.

This man, formerly a leper now healed, knew God had acted in his healing. This man, formerly a leper now healed, knew God had worked through Jesus. This man, a Samaritan thus a foreigner, knew God had delivered him through Jesus. This man, formerly a leper now healed, a Samaritan thus a foreigner, threw himself on the ground on his face at Jesus’ feet giving thanks.

Where is your liminal place?

Where do you find yourself standing—on the threshold of something new or walking away from something old, or something painful, or something other you need to leave behind?

As you stand on that edge, on that border, in that doorway—do you find yourself hoping? Regretting? Excited? Afraid?

Remember, you aren’t alone.

God stands with you.

Your faith will make you well. Or it will make you brave. Or it will make you confident. Or it will bring you comfort.

We lost a friend this week, a sister in Christ who not only worked for us in the Clothes Closet, but was confirmed here at Our Savior’s years ago, and became a member here again a year and a half ago. Dawn Kinard, raised as Dawn Severson, died last Sunday.

I loved working with Dawn. She wasn’t the strongest person physically; she was frail. But her heart was huge. As Betty Linse said, Dawn had a hug and a kiss [on the cheek] for every woman who walked in the Clothes Closet.

As I described the work Dawn did for us in the Clothes Closet, I told one person that Dawn was Jesus for us. She was there with women who were homeless, offering them strength and hope. She was there for a woman who is living her life liminally, one foot in recovery from addiction, one foot back on the streets. She was there for a woman born in Nigeria, now living here in La Crosse. Dawn was Jesus in their lives, giving them love and hope and a shoulder to lean on. As I spoke to one of our clients, who was broken-hearted by the news of Dawn’s death, I promised her that we will love her as much as Dawn loved her. I intend to keep that promise.

Our theme verse for our Stewardship campaign this year is our first reading: our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Our help comes from the Lord—but it shows itself in the ways we live, one with another. As we stand on the threshold of our future as a congregation, our call is to be Jesus—our call is to touch others, to bring healing and hope, to love others as God has loved us.

May it be so.