Wednesday, October 17, 2007

BCP - Proper 23 C - 14 Oct 2007

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Daniel Ludik, n/OHC
BCP - Proper 23 C - Sunday 14 October 2007

Ruth: (1-7) 8-19a

2 Timothy 2: (3-7) 8-15

Luke 17: 11-19

When I applied for my visa to come to the US, there was a separate form that men have to have to complete that deals with military involvement.

One of the questions asked is whether you have been involved in a war as an aggressor and in what capacity and whether you have been involved in a war as a victim. The official at the Embassy was quite bemused when I answered yes to both these questions.

Even though I am a born and bred Namibian, we were administered by South Africa until the 24th of March 1990, when we became independent. Prior to that we were part of the whole South African apparatus and as such we were involved in South Africa’s fight to maintain apartheid. Anyway, I was conscripted into that, but that is another story.

Then, in 1995, I had the opportunity with two friends to go and farm in the Republic of the Congo. Africa being Africa, we did our homework as well as we could. We visited the Congo three times to investigate all possible pro’s and con’s. We tried to get a feel for the country and its people, how comfortable we were with their government and structures, how willing the people were to receive us on the terms their government stipulated for us, the markets, etc.

We tried to plan for every contingency and eventuality; some of us even prayed about it – not me though, I was not in the praying mode then. Like Timothy exhorts us, we tried to follow all the rules!

We have eventually convinced ourselves that it was a good deal and we converted everything we owned into cash: cars, houses, pensions, policies, and bought the supplies we would need to get started. Then we shipped the whole toot to Ponte Noire and flew up to meet our destiny. Despite all the usual bureaucratic hiccups, we were eventually settled on the farm and started doing what we came there to do: to plough and plant and be independent.

All went well; we had cleared hectares of virgin soil and planted maize (corn in this part of the world) and vegetables and were calculating our profits, when the civil war broke out. There was a dispute between the sitting president and the previous president over the tiny problem of a private army of 5000 men belonging to the ex-president. The two could not see eye to eye on having this army roaming the countryside in the build-up to elections. The rest is now part is now part of history.

Anyway, one night while we were in hiding in the provincial capital, Dolisie, the three of us with the wives and child got together and that was when I said to God: get us out of this and I will reconsider. Reconsider what? Well, I was to find out big time!

When we eventually returned to the farm, it was cleared out, so my friends, being married, eventually decided to return to South Africa, but I stayed behind to work in the Congo, and like the one healed leper, I got more that I bargained for!

Just like we had the goal to become rich and independent, so the ten lepers of the Gospel had the goal to be healed. They have heard about this man, Jesus, who can heal the sick and do other wonders, and when they heard he was coming their way, they made sure they got close enough to him to ask him to heal them. They cried out for healing, probably also promising to reconsider, as I did, and Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests. As we know, in those days, the priests had to declare them clean and healthy before they could rejoin society.

This time Jesus did not touch them, he called on them to have faith, and in believing they were healed. They must have been overjoyed, and I would imagine a bit gob smacked; imagine being a smelly, filthy wreck of a person one moment and the next we are clean and able to move freely, and even more importantly, we are not outcasts anymore, but once again we are part of society!

I also see the healing from leprosy of the lepers as a visible demonstration of sin and what happens when God forgives us our sins. Just try and imagine what these poor lepers looked like, covered in sores and most probably limbs and digits missing, and then they were healed and whole! What a wonderful image!

Yet, even though all of them were healed, only one of them, the Samaritan, turned back and, prostrating himself, thanked Jesus. Jesus then told him to get up and go, his faith has healed him.

Of course the others were also healed by their faith. They did not have a relapse of leprosy because they did not go back, at least I do not think so. They did receive the blessing of healing, but they missed out on the blessing of a relationship with Jesus.

And that was part of the blessing that I did not bargain on when I said I would reconsider! Like Ruth, I was wandering without much in a foreign land, and yet God was there to comfort me and guide me. And this experience eventually gave me the courage to, once again, risk everything to follow God. When I became a monk, I did it willingly, and in gratitude, because I knew if I wanted healing, I had to have faith! Once we have freedom from worldly anxiety and fear and trust in faith, we have amazing freedom for God’s work.

Another blessing in this Gospel is the knowledge that God is available for a relationship with all of us; not just a chosen few. If the Samaritan, who was considered a double outcast: he was from the wrong tribe and had leprosy, if he could be healed and brought into a relationship with God, that means we all have a place; BUT the choice is ours.

WF Arndt, a Lutheran scholar writes: “The faith of the Samaritan had not only led to his physical health, but had brought him full salvation, the forgiveness of his sins, a place among God’s children. In the case of the nine, faith had gripped their hearts in the hour of their bitter need, but it had evaporated when the misery was gone!”

It is like our coming to church, week after week; what is it that we want or look for? There will be as many answers as people you put the question to, but I think the important thing is to keep our central goal in focus; knowing Christ and building a relationship with him, and to make our home in him. To know God is to serve God, we cannot separate the two. And to serve God is to act. As Christians we are called to conversion and to act is to convert; believe, forgive, repent, serve, LOVE.


1 comment:

Sally said...

Thanks for your message,Daniel.Having spent three weeks in southern Africa last May,and having met you at HCM,it was of particular interest.God speed. Sally