The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
The Fruit of Faith
September 17, 2006
St. Luke 17:11-19
The English word “worship”
has been used in our churches to describe what happens on a Sunday
morning when we gather together as Christ’s church.
We talk about a worship service.
We speak of going to church to worship God.
Worship is an old English word that literally means worth-ship.
We ascribe worth to God. We
worship God by glorifying Him for who He is and for what He does.
Worship is the first expression of faith.
The First Commandment commands us to worship God.
I am the LORD your God who has taken you out of the land of
Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
Faith and worship are
inextricably bound. Indeed,
faith is worship. Everything
else is just commentary. Faith
believes everything God says. Faith
relies implicitly on every promise God makes.
Faith depends on God for every good thing.
Faith expects God to provide every need.
Faith is a living and daring confidence that God cannot forsake
us or deny us any good thing. Faith
is the purest and holiest form of worship.
In fact, the very essence of worship is faith.
In this sense worship remains unseen by human eyes and unheard by
human ears. Only God can
see faith and so only God can see true worship.
The fruit of faith can be seen
and heard by others. When
we worship together God binds us together as one.
I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.
While we cannot see the faith by which we are joined together in
communion with one another we can see and we can hear the fruit of that
faith as we glorify God with one voice.
The Greek word for glory is doxa.
It’s where we get the word doxology and orthodox.
We usually think that orthodox means right teaching, but
literally it refers to the right way of glorifying God.
We glorify God for who He is. Jesus cleansed and cured ten lepers. Only one returned to glorify God. He returned to Jesus. He
fell at Jesus’ feet. In
falling at Jesus’ feet He was glorifying God.
We glorify God by worshipping God in the flesh.
We glorify God by worshipping Jesus.
Jesus said that everyone who honors the Father must honor the
Son. There is no true
worship of God the Father apart from giving glory to His only begotten
When I was a freshman in high
school, I attended Clayton High School in Clayton, Missouri.
I would say that about 60% of the student body was Jewish.
In those days they would invite clergymen to offer prayers at
graduation exercises. One
year they invited the Rev. Roland Wiederanders who was at the time the
First Vice President of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
He prayed an explicitly Christian prayer, not only mentioning
Jesus’ name, but confessing that Jesus was the only hope for
salvation. Many of the Jews
present were outraged that Rev. Wiederanders was so insensitive to those
who did not believe in Jesus or acknowledge Him as the Christ or the
Savior of sinners. But a
prayer that deliberately ignores Jesus is no prayer at all.
True worship does not consult public opinion for direction.
It glorifies God by glorifying His only begotten Son, Jesus
Christ. We don’t know if
the other lepers who were cleansed were grateful.
I would think that they were.
How could they not be? But
only one – a Samaritan – returned to glorify God by falling at
Jesus’ feet to give Him thanks.
We glorify God for who He is. And we glorify God for what He does. He healed ten men of a terrible disease.
Lepers were required by law to stand away from healthy people and
cry out, “unclean!” They
were segregated from the world. They
were ritually unclean. This
is why they were required to show themselves to the priests if they were
healed. A priest would
determine if they were permitted to reenter the religious community and
participate in the worship again.
When the nine lepers continued
on their way to the priests while the leper from Samaria returned to
Jesus a clear confession was made.
The nine confessed that they wanted fellowship with a religious
community. The one
confessed that he wanted fellowship with God.
Oh, there’s a difference.
There’s a fundamental difference.
People are incurably religious. They want to be with other people and express religious
sentiments. That’s why
they go to church or synagogue or mosque.
There’s nothing uniquely Christian about gathering with other
likeminded people on a regular basis to go through religious rituals.
What is unique about Christian worship is its source.
We aren’t just saying religious things or expressing religious
feelings. No, we are
glorifying the One from whom we have received our eternal salvation.
Christian worship is always in response to receiving what God in
The Samaritan who was cleansed
returned to glorify God. For
what? For healing him.
What does Jesus say? He
says, “Your faith has made you well.”
Literally, “Your faith has saved you.”
His faith had saved him from leprosy of the body.
His faith had saved him from the cause of all diseases of the
body and soul. He was
rescued, delivered, cleansed of his sin.
Mercy is broader than
forgiveness, but forgiveness is always at its heart.
God has pity on the suffering of sinful people even though they
deserve what they suffer. Think
about it. Have you ever been entirely innocent even when suffering
unjustly? We confess in
Luther’s explanation of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer:
in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins,
nor on their account deny our prayer; for we are not worthy of anything
we ask, neither have we deserved it. But we pray that He would give us
everything by grace, for we daily sin much and deserve nothing but
punishment; and we on our part will heartily forgive and readily do good
to those who sin against us.
True worship is Christian
worship. That is, true worship comes from receiving what Christ alone
can give. True worship
comes from receiving the forgiveness of our sins.
The lepers went to the priests. Nine of them continued on their way even after they saw that
they were cleansed. But who
was it that cleansed them? Nine
out of ten didn’t care. They
were clean. That was all
that mattered. But it
wasn’t all that mattered. It
mattered that Jesus cleansed them.
Only one of the ten cared about that.
The fact that Jesus was the One who had healed them showed that
He was the true priest, the High Priest, the One who would shed His
blood to forgive sinners their sins. Who, but the promised Christ, the Savior, God’s only
begotten Son, could, by a mere word, heal a man from leprosy? The Samaritan would never have been accepted as a member of
that group of ten men had he not been a leper.
Misery loves company, and when segregated away from the rest of
the world you can’t be too choosy about whom you let into your
company. But under normal
circumstances the Jews wouldn’t socialize with Samaritans.
Samaritans were known for their adherence to false doctrine and
false worship. But this
Samaritan understood clearly what true worship was.
He glorified God in Christ for showing mercy.
That’s the essence of true worship.
We not only recognize Christ as our God, we confess that in Him
alone is the mercy we need from God.
“Your faith has saved you.”
That’s what Jesus said. That’s
what He says. Not just any
faith, but your faith. It
isn’t a generic one size fits all, faith.
It is a specific faith. It
is faith that looks to Jesus and knows that for His sake God will always
be merciful. The High
Priest has sacrificed Himself for us.
He has invited us to show ourselves to Him.
Showing Him our sin, He takes it upon Himself.
Confessing to Him our leprous desires, He washes us clean.
We look to see the works of the flesh and we see them in
ourselves. We see
“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery,
hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions,
dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the
like.” We confess that
those who do these things have no share in the kingdom of God.
Then we run to Christ. We
cry out for His mercy, the mercy that flows from the blood He shed for
us all. Does Christ ever
refuse? Does He ever send
us away without receiving that for which we have prayed?
He has not and He will not because He cannot.
He is who He is and His name is pure mercy.
The church service is not primarily a worship service. Yes, we gather here to glorify God and to confess our faith in Him. But we can do that at home, at work, or with the neighbor. The church service is primarily Divine Service. It is where we come to find our High Priest who ever makes intercession for us in heaven. It is where we gather to hear the gospel and receive the sacraments of Christ. Through the words of Jesus and His holy sacraments God serves us in our need. We receive what faith needs. We receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We receive it every time we come, for this is what our Savior wishes to give to us, not just piecemeal, but completely. He doesn’t leave us wounded and impure. He sends us on our way pure, clean, holy, and righteous. He deigns to accept our thanksgiving. He, who serves us in the Divine Service, enables us to glorify Him. And so we do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus