[Jesus said] “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”    Lk 17: 18

Worship of God can take many forms. Over the last four weeks, during our autumn course, we have witnessed different ways of worshipping God:

  • in hymns,
  • Scripture (looking at the forgotten women in the Bible)
  • art, and
  • Ignatian contemplation.

Some of these styles of worship were very different from our usual diet, and some of us have found God anew in unexpected places, by being open to God. But what is worship?

Worship comes from an old English word meaning ‘worthship’ – giving to God His true worth as Creator, Redeemer, and indwelling Spirit. Worship is our response to divine activities.[1]

George Appleton has said “As we realise the greatness, the goodness, and the allness of God, we forget ourselves and our hearts break forth in praise.”

Worship is not just an expression in words, music, and Liturgy. It is the acceptance of God as the governing reality of our lives. We live our lives in oneness in Christ, and through our baptismal vows in obedience to Him (Jesus).

Our gospel, this morning, is an invitation to conflict! How might this be you may ask?

Jesus shows mercy to all ten of the lepers (we need to recall that lepers were the outcasts of society in His day – they were untouchables.) This is where Jesus starts to break the conventions of the day. He was ignoring the Levitical purity laws.[2] He kept the Law in so far as He told the healed lepers to go and show themselves to the priests. Tradition, and the Law, were broken though when Jesus said: “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Here the real controversy is found. Not only has Jesus been breaking the purity laws, but he has healed a Gentile, the Samaritan!

Worse is yet to come for God has acted outside the Temple! The 9 other lepers that were healed were concerned only with religiosity. They went to the priests as they were told, but through their concern for conventions and the legalities of their Faith, they missed the point! The outsider, the Gentile Samaritan, returned and gave thanks to God. The one who should have been least likely to recognise God’s Grace was the only one to recognise God where He was. In doing so the Samaritan’s life was transformed!

The lesson being that we find God in the most unexpected places, and not necessarily where we would expect or maybe want to find Him. This would resonate with an old familiar saying: ‘that the church is the only organisation that is there for its non-members’.

Worship of God is the inner core of Christian Spirituality. We worship God best; when we resemble Him most. Thus, good works go hand in glove with our worship of God. Our service, our love for others, especially those we find hard to love, is the task that Jesus lays before us.

Being a follower of Jesus and worshiping Him daily is difficult and controversial in our society – people are suspicious and afraid of God’s Love. This is because it transforms lives, and sets people free from worldly fears, as we have witnessed with the Lepers in our gospel.

Our worship needs not only to be genuine, but it must be underpinned by the work that Jesus would be doing in our community.

Worship, as we have recently witnessed, can take many different forms. This is something we should continue to explore using the gifts that are present in our congregations. It will allow us to continue to be with God in the familiar, but also allow us to find Him in the unexpected areas of our lives, as we share our Faith and love, by building bridges into the communities in which we live and witness.

I came across an interesting article written by a former Primus, Richard Holloway, in the Church Times on the 29th March, 1991.

In the article he spoke of how his father didn’t share his faith. Yet, Jesus died for all not just the few.

He spoke of how ‘Church contradicts the liberality of God, by trying to get the world to pay a religious duty on what has been so freely given. The Church is not the gospel, but the news agency, here to announce what another has won’.

Richard Holloway ended by saying how he suspected his father knew the joy of Faith. As a consequence, when his father died, they didn’t bring his dad’s body into church. They left him outside the church, “where he was more comfortable – with Jesus!”

A lesson to learn from our gospel. A reminder that our liturgies should be relevant to everyone somehow, and that we haven’t cornered the market on God! We must seek God in the unrealised, and share our great gift of Faith, in order that our worship is a response to divine activities!

[Jesus said] “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

[1] George Appleton Journey for a Soul p.215

[2] Lev 14: 2-32