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For today’s Shabbat Shalom post the focus will be the wholeness in worship. And I’ll explain it using an ancient story told in the Bible in the book of St. Luke, the 17th chapter.
One day Jesus was passing through a town and came across ten men who were suffering from a debilitating flesh eating disease—leprosy—they were standing afar off. [Yes, social distancing is not a new disease control measure.]
“Hey Jesus”, they shouted across the divide, “please, heal us”!!
Their combined voices coupled with their common desperation to be heard amplified their call-out. Moved with compassion and being mindful of the public health restrictions, Jesus didn’t bid them draw near for a touch. Instead, in a voice equally amplified by His desperate desire to restore, Jesus shouted back:
“Go show yourselves to the Priest”!!
Odd response, wouldn’t you say?!
Yet, in faith, the 10 men proceeded on the path to the Temple.
[in my imagination this is how the rest of the story unfolded…] A minute or so into their walk, one man glanced over at another and could literally see the melanin returning to his skin. Right before his eyes white blotches were returning to caramel-like skin tone, and sores and lesions were disappearing replaced by new flawless skin. He reached up and touched his own nose that was starting to be deformed and it was restored. Soon there was a buzz of excitement and exuberant chatter of jubilation amongst the 10 men as each served as the mirror for the other. Soon all 10 were fully cleansed.
Seeing that their skin and bodies were cleansed, what started out as a walk turned into a slow trot and then a full-on sprint as they dashed off in varying directions, likely to their homes.
All except one.
Yes, his walk also turned to a trot and then a full-on sprint but not toward his home, he raced instead toward Jesus. Breathless, he catches up to Jesus in the town and throws himself at Jesus’ feet in gratitude for the healing of his physical body.
And here is where this ancient story takes a profound turn that is very relevant to us in this modern day. Ten men had leprosy. Ten men were cleansed or healed. But only one was made whole.
There’s a difference between being healed and being made whole.
The man expressed gratitude for his physical healing in spiritual terms—the Bible says, he glorified or worshipped God. While the other nine men ran to their physical homes, this one man ran to his spiritual home.
As spiritual matters can only be spiritually discerned 1Corinthians 2:14, Jesus saw beyond the man’s physical expression of gratitude to his spiritual expression of worship. In response, this is what Jesus declared:
The man was already healed—his physical body was transformed, he saw it with his eyes. So when Jesus responded to his act of worship by declaring him whole, He couldn’t have been referring to the physical healing.
There is a deep need in all of us that if left unmet leaves us feeling incomplete on the inside. It’s a longing, a yearning for something we can’t explain but it drives us to seek its fulfillment. We all have that nagging feeling that there must be something more to life than this—this day-to-day existence. Some people seek to fulfill it in service to others, some in the accumulation of “stuff”, and others unable to find fulfillment seek to dull the desire with drugs, alcohol or other self-harming behaviors.
This lingering restlessness has also been the muse of poets and singers. After all the money and fame and the thrills that came with a superstar lifestyle, the Irish rock group U2 sang: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” David, the poet, the ultimate logophile, expressed it this way: I have a “soul thirst” so intense my soul pants like a deer panting for water. Psalm 42:1-3
But what David came to recognize and was able to record, that U2 did not, was that the deep desire in his soul could be met by only the One who created that desire—God! God created a desire for Himself in us.
This is what this healed leper was feeling [For the sake of a better reference than “leper”, I’m gonna name him Repel i.e. leper in reverse, ‘cause sometimes you gotta reverse and repel what was sent to derail you.] Repel got what he thought was his greatest desire—to be healed—but deep within him he still felt incomplete. He hadn’t found what he was looking for. However, what distinguished his response from the other nine? Gratitude. And not just gratitude, but how he chose to express it.
No doubt the other nine men were grateful, but the expression of their gratitude was directed to the source of their desire—likely a wife or a child or maybe a couple of them made it to the Priest.
For Repel, he recalled that he had tried all those before and they left him empty. He stopped mid-run, U-turned and made a beeline back to Jesus.
Again David explains this masterfully. He puts it this way—deep calls unto deep. Psalm 42:7 Our deep need, this restless longing, inherently calls unto the deep of the Creator’s fullness. And, vice-a-versa, the deep of the Creator’s fullness calls unto the deep of our need. Between our need and God’s all-sufficiency there is a great divide—experienced in us as this restless yearning.
This is what Repel came to understand, and it reversed his steps and changed his life course.
Let’s go back to Jesus’ declaration as Repel knelt pouring out his gratitude in worship: “your faith has made you whole”.
In the English language, the life-changing significance in that one word—whole—is lost. However, in the Greek language the profundity is awe-inspiring.
The word Jesus used to make this pronouncement of wholeness is defined in Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible as “saved” as it’s derived from the Greek word sōzō, translated “saved, healed, delivered“.
Ten lepers healed, physically. One leper made whole—because he, Repel, repelled the usual forces that he previously thought could fulfill his need, to receive the only One who could and had made him whole. And so, he was saved from sin, healed from within, and delivered from restlessness.
In the act of expressing gratitude Repel worshipped and in that process was made whole—saved/healed/delivered.
The message rings true from ancient times to now: until we come to terms and accept that the restlessness in us can only be fulfilled in the all-sufficiency of God, we will continue to give our desires to people and things that will leave us unfulfilled.
We were created to worship. But we were also created with the ability to choose. We choose who or what we worship.
What is worship? I’d say, in its stripped down definition, worship is a heart attitude that is expressed as love, gratitude and praise toward God, and a devotion of time in service toward what will advance God’s kingdom.
Shabbat Shalom. May you find gratitude in worship to and of God and enjoy the wholeness-living—saved from sin, healed from within, and delivered from restlessness. Be like Repel.
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For more on “deep calls to deep”, you may also read: Hiraeth
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