I recall from many decades ago a description of theology as faith in search of understanding. The definition has served me well. Indeed, the Christian faith is a search for God-in-Christ. Theology and faith are not merely

about God. Rather, it must always be a speaking, searching and discovery into God. Faith must never be an arrival. The understanding of our faith never finds a final resting place. There are signposts along the way as well as stage posts. These are always provisional otherwise it would mean that we have reached the point when we, somewhat arrogantly, believe that we have God all neatly wrapped up in his pigeon hole, and we have nothing more to discover, learn or understand. Very often both sign and stage posts indicate a misdirection on our part. We need the ability to recognise both direction and misdirection.

A much neglected signpost is the Word of God, the scriptures – both Old and New Testaments. I am much taken with the expression of The Wind of the Word. In this connection I am constantly reminded of words spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus:

“What!” said Jesus. “Is this famous teacher of Israel ignorant of such things?” Beforehand the Lord had proclaimed “the wind blows where it wills; you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from, or where it is going.” {see JOHN 3: 8 – 11}

TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 17: 11 – 19]

is an excellent example of this wind of the word. In addition it provides both sign and stage posts which should not be overlooked. These include both direction and misdirection.

First of all an ever-growing understanding of our faith should bring us to the stage of accepting that Jesus sees us and recognises our need without spelling it out for him. There is no need for us to ‘bend his ears back’. Recall the disciples’ request:

“Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus’s response was to give them and us the words of The Lord’s Prayer. Therein we have the simple petition of “give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus did not see any need to ‘list the menu’. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not respond to any specific request but offers the Lord’s Prayer after proclaiming your Father knows what your needs are before you ask him.” {see Luke 11: 1 and Matthew 6: 8}.

Jesus himself is the great signpost.

His presence in our lives brings him face to face with our particular situation. This fact is an important stage post presented by our Gospel extract. Notice that the Lord was “met by ten lepers.” Jesus is also the great stage post.They were waiting for him. We must learn to wait on him and to meet him in the basic reality of our own life’s condition. There must be no pretence. However, do not overlook the simple, but basic, starting point of the lepers which is both sign and stage post. They do not ask for a cure. Rather, their plea is an acknowledgement of their real need“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Now we arrive at a fundamental signpost –

OBEDIENCE to the Word! The Lord responds to their request for mercy by saying to them “Go and show yourselves to the priests. And as they went they were cleansed.” They did, without questioning, what Jesus asked of them. It was their obedient response that initiated their cleansing. The Gospel tells us that they were all “cleansed” but only one was “made well.” It is interesting to see that this one was a Samaritan who would have been regarded by the remaining nine as an ‘unbeliever’. Yet he is the one whose “faith made him well.”He was willing to “turn back” in thanksgiving and he alone was told to “rise and go your way.” An essential part of going on our way must be a willingness to turn back, giving thanks and praise. These must be frequent stage posts at which we arrive. {here recall our OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT from 2 KINGS 5: 14 – 17 which tells us of Naaman’s (the Syrian) cleansing who returned to Elisha as man of faith and thankfulness.}

In all this it will be profitable to reflect on one specific difference that can exist between

cures and healings. It is possible, for example, that prayers for a cure from cancer may well not be realised. However, what may emerge is ‘healing’ – a peaceful (not to be confused with ‘resignation’) acceptance of the physical condition but an ability to rise and go one’s way because we have, indeed, been made well. Our prayer “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” has been heard. We have reached a special stage post on our faith journey. We have heard the Wind of the Word. Now we become a signpost to and for others as we go on our way.

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