[Proverbs 4:10-23 / Galatians 5:16-24; Luke 17:11-19]
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like loud noises. Ask my kids and they’ll tell you. Old grump that I am, I was forever squelching their joyful shrieking and hollering by telling them: “Don’t yell! Don’t be so loud! Use your inside voice!” If my mother were here, she’d just laugh. She used to say that as a child I only one dynamic: fortissimo. But now I’ve become a serious and grumpy adult and so I don’t like loud anymore. But I guess it’s too bad, because loud is what we get in today’s Gospel. The one leper who came back to Jesus to thank him, fell at Jesus’ feet with a loud voice, glorifying God! We want to think about this LOUD glorification today.
You see, one of the consequences of leprosy is that it makes you perpetually hoarse. A leper can’t make any loud noises. That’s why lepers often rattled pots and pans and bells and such when they wanted to get attention. Their voices just didn’t carry far. But when this man is healed by Jesus, when he regains his voice again, he USES it. No more soft talking for him! He uses that voice to glorify and praise God LOUDLY, worshipping at Jesus’ feet.
So what’s with loud? Loud means excited. Loud drowns out everything else. Loud means everyone can hear. So… How’s the praise of God going on in YOUR life? Or, let’s put it another way, how excited are you about the healing that Jesus has done for you? And does the praise of God drown out all the griping and complaining in your life? And do you speak of what God has done for you in Jesus loud enough for others to hear? How loud’s the praise?
Loudness flows from excitement. Could it be that we’re not loud in our glorifying God because we’ve lost the excitement? Because we’ve turned into all too serious adults who can no longer let loose and whoop and holler like we used to do. Do you think Jesus was getting at that when he said: “Unless you turn and become like children…” That leper was excited because he had had a horrible disease that was eating up his body and that alienated him from human society. Death was already chewing on him and he knew it, but one word from Jesus made death let loose and run away. One word from Jesus and his skin was whole and pure again and his voice was smooth and silky as it had been before. He was a new man. Wouldn’t you have been excited? You betcha! Well, then, what’s our excuse now?
Something a lot worse than leprosy had hold of us: sin. Sin that is like a mortal sickness. Only worse. Because it doesn’t just result in the death of our body. That's only the appetizers. The main meal is that it lands us in hell. It lands us in the agony of eternal separation from God who alone is life and joy. That’s what had hold of us. And there was nada we could do about it. But Jesus came, sent by the Father to take care of it once and for all. He healed us. And not just by speaking a word, but by taking that hell that was our deserts into His sinless body and enduring it for us. That’s what he did for us to break sin’s hold on us and on our race, blotting out our sins forever by His blood. Then he rose again and called us to follow him into that eternal life which is the joy of the Father’s presence forever.
He did that for us, and what do we do? Like the nine, most of the time we forget it and get back to the seriousness of life, back to the daily grind and the business of getting and spending and so on. And so we miss out on the joy! The joy of coming back to our Savior’s feet and falling down in front of him and shouting out like a little kid our excitement that we have been set free from sin’s condemnation and from death’s power – thanking and praising our Hero, our Savior!
Further, loudness drowns out everything else. When praise and thanksgiving are filling our lips we don’t have time for the griping and the grumbling. Check it out. Are YOU a glorifier or a griper? The one drives out the other as sure as the light of the sun drives aways the darkness of the night. Jesus has brought us into His Kingdom and given us His gifts so that our lives might be transformed from endless complaining to endless thanksgiving. One of the gifts Baptism gives is the ability to see things the right way around. To look at the world and see it again as gift from the Lord. We make children memorize the catechism not because we delight in torturing their young minds, but because we want to train them to see things from God’s perspective: as gifts flowing from His loving hands and so their lives will come to overflow with thanksgiving and praise.
I wonder sometimes if we don’t have it all backwards, though. Because we adults tend to be the ones who do the serious griping; we’re the ones who need to pull out that catechism again and remember that “for all this it is my duty to thank and praise, to serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.” If we had “catechism eyes” to see the good gifts of God showering down on us – gifts to sustain and bless our temporal life and gifts for our eternal life – then our lives would indeed be LOUD in thanksgiving, drowning out the complaining.
And yes, loudness means that others hear what you say. Only a serious and superficial adult would say: “Well, I can be thankful in my own heart. I don’t need to say anything out loud!” What nonsense! Of course you can be thankful in your heart and if you’re not thankful deep down, then your words are just empty nothings. But a heart that is thankful can’t help but speak out – and speak out LOUDLY. Listen to it in Psalm 34: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord. Let the afflicted hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me and let us exult his name together. I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears.”
Loud praise is not so that others hear how loudly we can praise, but so that they can hear clearly the great things that God has done. Lutherans are forever moaning about how their evangelism efforts are so weak and puny. And we can never figure out why. Silly us! The best evangelism is simply overheard praise, loud voices glorifying God, people who are excited about the Lord Jesus has done for them and who let that thanksgiving and praise drive out and replace all the griping and complaining. People notice that. They notice that such a life is different from theirs and they want to know why.
We can then invite them into the joy of living at the receiving end of God’s giving, we can invite them into thanksgiving and loud glorifying. Or, we can forget the joy of what Jesus has done for us, we can continue to fill our mouths with grousing, and we can be weak in our witness to the Lord. Now really, which one is it going to be?
Let’s take our cue from this Samaritan ex-leper. Remember the great things that our God has done for you in Jesus Christ - and the great things He goes on doing as you receive from Him today your Savior's body and blood for forgiveness and life and salvation. Praise him for them in your hearts and with your lips. By the gift of our Baptism, let’s let the griping die in us and let’s rise with Jesus to a life of unending praise, a life of loud glorifying. Amen.