The Gospel of Luke tells us a story in which Jesus heals ten people of leprosy — and only one comes back to thank him (Luke 17:11-19).
N.T. Wright begins his translation of this story like this: “As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he passed along the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee.”
What are borderlands? What is a border? Well, obviously, a border is a location that separates two groups of people. We might imagine the demilitarized zone in between North Korea and South Korea: a 2.5-mile wide strip of land, protected by barbed wire fences, which humans have barely touched in 60 years. We might imagine the U.S.-Mexico border, where so many want a wall to go up. We might imagine simply the door we close to keep others out when we need our space.
So Jesus is passing through the borderlands that separate two groups of people. On the Galilee side are the Israelites, the Jewish people. This is the group to whom Jesus belongs. On the other side are the Samaritans: related to the Jewish people, but their ancestry had diverged, and now they had slightly different scriptures and a different holy site. The differences were enough to dig a deep, prejudice-filled division between the two groups.
The borderlands are where these two groups are divided; it’s also where they touch. And so when Jesus heals a group of ten lepers in the borderlands, at least some of them are Samaritans. We know this for sure because the one person — the only one — who says “thank you” was a Samaritan.
We can hear how unexpected that is in Jesus’ response to the Samaritan: “Is it really the case that the only one who had the decency to give God the glory was this foreigner?” And then he says something that must have been shocking to the Samaritan man: “Your faith has saved you.”
These two men come from two different groups of people who are fiercely divided because of differences in culture and faith. And yet here is Jesus, a Jewish holy man, telling a Samaritan man: “Your faith has saved you.”
The things that are meant to keep Jews and Samaritans apart — the border, the faith — Jesus turns them into means of connection.
Jesus welcomes “this foreigner” into what God is doing in and through the people of Israel: healing, blessing, connecting, loving. Where humans dug pits of division, God builds connection. That’s what God does.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” -Ephesians 2:13-14
Many of us are really feeling our own “borderlands” these days. The pandemic has made our “bubble” of personal space wider. Some of us are returning to in-person school or work after over a year apart. Some of us are starting a new life in a totally new place. And these things can make our world seem full of borders and “foreign-ness.” They can make us feel separate and lonely.
All this is on top of the usual borders that divide us, whether we want them to or not; borders like race, class, gender, sexual orientation, career, faith…the list goes on.
When you find yourself passing along these borderlands in these first weeks of the school year, may the Holy Spirit remind you: God is full of the power, creativity, and compassion that turn our borders into places of connection. So go ahead — expect God to turn your lonely borderlands into the site of new community.
God, in Jesus you break down walls and heal divisions. When I feel lonely, separate, different, remind me that can’t stop you from connecting me to you and to others. Encourage me when I pass through the borderlands, until I feel connected again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Sept. 1, 2021
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A call to courage for 2021
- A charming tale for over-achievers
- A Lesson On Beans … and Being
- A New Place
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- A Time of Dust
- Acquiring a peaceful spirit
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Anastasis: the Greatest Story of God’s Saving Power
- Another kind of darkness
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- As if we needed a reminder
- Beacons of hope
- Better Together
- Blessings As You Go
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Fear of the Lord
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Getting through this together
- God is not overwhelmed
- Good Friday
- Grief & Graduation
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How do you keep from giving up hope?
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- Imagining Eternity
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In everything, grateful
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Jesus among us
- Killing off our future selves
- Knowing a Good Thing When We See It
- Lessons in fire building
- Let there be light!
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- Naming our demons
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- On the day after the night before
- Persistent and Extravagant
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Praying for Reconciliation
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Rest is Holy
- Right where we are
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Surprisingly Simple: Breathe!
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Trouble with Mammon
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You might be a Lutheran if…
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- WWJD? We already know
- Walking in the Light of Jesus’ Resurrection
- We had hoped
- We’re on a mission from God
- What do you do with your anger?
- What good is a shepherd?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When God uses something terrible for good
- When heaven & earth click
- When joy and sadness live together
- When stress overwhelms
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- When we are moved
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Won’t you be my neighbor?
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future