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October 13, 2013–The Cost of Healing

Contributed by John Wertz, Blacksburg, VA

Warm-up Question

Think about the last time you were really sick.  Who helped you to deal with your illness?  How did you express your gratitude to that person?

The Cost of Healing

Everyone will get sick at some point in their lives, however, since a visit to the doctor or the emergency room, can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, it has not always been possible for those who are sick to see a doctor, especially if they lack insurance.   According to the Health Insurance Coverage Estimates produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “In the first 3 months of 2013, 46.0 million persons of all ages (14.8%) were uninsured at the time of interview, 57.4 million (18.5%) had been uninsured for at least part of the year prior to interview, and 34.5 million (11.1%) had been uninsured for more than a year at the time of interview.”   When the statistics are examined more closely, it becomes clear that the uninsured rate is even higher for those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale.  For people who are considered poor (those earning up to $23,550 in income for a family of 4) or near poor (those earning up to $47,100 in income for a family of four), the uninsured rate rises to nearly 30%. (accessed Sept. 30, 2013 – and  For those struggling to make a living, therefore, adequate health care can be out of their financial reach and a major medical event can mean financial disaster.

In an attempt to provide access to health care to all Americans, the Federal government passed the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010.  After three years of lawsuits and political wrangling, the Act went into effect at the beginning of this month.  While it will be years, before the success or failure of this law can be accurately measured, in the short-term millions of our most vulnerable neighbors will now have access to medical insurance and the care that they need when they are ill.


Discussion Questions

  •  Do you think that access to health care is a right or a privilege?
  • Do you think a certain level of care should be available to everyone regardless of their financial resources?
  • For many people, money is at the heart of the discussion over health care.  How much do you think it should cost to go to the doctor?  How does that compare to what you are willing to pay for other goods and services?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, October 13, 2013 (Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost)

 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Luke 17:11-19

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection


Photo by Radu Razvan /

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk 17:13)  If there was ever a group of people who could use God’s mercy and the healing presence of Jesus, it was definitely the lepers.  These men and women, who were battling the affects of a long-term, debilitating disease, were outcasts from society and essentially unemployable.  Regardless of their social standing or skill set before they became ill, lepers were forced to survive on the charity of others and to live in a colony with those coping the disease.

Their cry, Luke says, came from a distance.  Lepers always kept their distance from the rest of society, because to get too close was to risk subjecting someone else to the pain and suffering that dominated their lives.   “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” was their plea, but what form did they expect Jesus’ mercy to take?  Were they seeking a financial donation from him like the donations they had sought from travelers before him?  Were they looking for a gift of food like the 5,000 had received?  Were they hoping for healing like the crippled woman who could now walk again?  Obviously, we cannot know everything that was racing through the minds of those ten lepers as they called out to Jesus, but Jesus’ response to their cry is immediate and clear, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.”(Lk 17:14)  He doesn’t ask them to jump through any hoops.  He doesn’t call them over so he can perform a ritual.  Jesus hears their cry for help and acts to restore health and wholeness to their lives.

The healing, it is worth noting, didn’t happen immediately.  It was only after the lepers obeyed Jesus’ command and began walking toward the priests who could certify their healing and release them from their unclean status that they noticed a change in their health.  As they walked, as they obeyed Jesus command, they experienced God’s healing power and were made well.

It’s hard to blame the nine who didn’t come back to thank Jesus and to praise God.  After all, Jesus told them to go to the priest and once they were declared clean, they could go home.  Almost anyone in their shoes would have raced to share the good news with their family and friends, but one leper returned.  One former leper gave glory to God in a loud voice and prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet.  One newly healed Samaritan understood that Jesus offered more than simply a path back into the world.   One man of faith believed in Jesus and discovered not simply physical healing, but the key to a whole, healthy life of faith.  Jesus command, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well” (Lk 17:19) is not the end of the story, but  a new beginning for this once ailing man who now returns to the world free from the horrors of leprosy and connected to the new life that comes from faith in Jesus.

Discussion Questions

  • If you were one of the ten lepers who were made clean, do you think you would have returned to thank Jesus?
  • Even though leprosy is not a major disease in the world today, there are still millions of people who are isolated and left out of society.  What are some of the ideas, situations and circumstances that make someone a ‘leper’ in today’s world?  What do you think it is like to live on the edges of society?
  • How can we follow Jesus’ example and show mercy to those who are in need of healing and hope?

Activity Suggestions

  • Work with your church to assembly Personal Care Kits or Baby Care Kits which can be distributed by Lutheran World Relief to people around the world in need of healing and help. More information on LWF kits can be found at:
  • “Thank You Day” – pick a day to go out of your way to say, “Thank You!”  Pay special attention to all the ways that people assist and help you throughout the day.  Acknowledge their help with words of thanks and consider writing a personal note to those who make the biggest impact in your life.

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, you reach out to us with your compassion and caring.  Bless all those who use their gifts to bring healing and health to others.  In our times of need, help us to experience your merciful presence and make us always thankful for the gifts you have given us.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

March 17-23, 2010–Smells Like Frankincense

Contributed by Jay Gamelin, pastor at Jacob’s Porch, a Lutheran campus mission to The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Warm-up Question

What is the one thing (thing means object, not person) you think you could not give away if someone who really needed it asked for it? Why?

Smells Like Frankincense

The royal family of Oman wants the world to know that frankincense is the scent of Gold, both figuratively and literally.  Twenty-five years ago the royal family of Oman commissioned a French perfumer to create a fragrance for the nation of Oman and “Gold”, the name of the fragrance created, is considered by many to be one of the greatest perfumes. For 25 years the company has sold this perfume for a non-recession-fearing price of $230 for a 50ml bottle, about 1.7oz.  Currently it sells through many department stores in Europe, Russia, the U.S. and Asia.  The royal family is now looking to move into the European markets by opening a store in London.  As  the family grows its presence, it hopes to grow its coffers as well.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate that the global beauty industry (consisting of skin care products worth $24 billion; make-up, $18 billion; hair-care products, $38 billion; and $15 billion of perfumes) is growing at up to 7% a year, more than twice the rate of the developed world’s GDP. The sector’s market leader, L’Oreal, has had compound annual profits growth of 14% for 13 years. Sales of Beiersdorf’s Nivea have grown at 14% a year over the same period.

Discussion Questions

  • What perfumes or colognes do you like or use?  How much would you be willing to pay for this perfume?
  • What is one beauty product you would be willing to give up for the rest of your life?  What is one beauty product you would not give up?


Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 21, 2010 (Fifth Sunday of Lent)

Isaiah 43:16-21

Philippians 3:4b-14

John 12:1-8

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

It’s a hard lesson this week.  In the face of the way Americans consume the world’s resources (6% of the world’s population consuming 43% of the world’s resources) it seems you would want to be on the side of Judas Iscariot.  Why waste this perfume when it could be sold and given to the poor?  I know what he is saying—I even agree!  How could we allow such waste, especially when it comes to something one could call frivolous and luxurious like perfume?  No one on the planet needs perfume.  It is only a luxury with no point other than to smell good.

But Jesus rebukes Judas.  He says it is time for perfume.  He remarks that it is not time to be without.  It has a place, this waste. Jesus gives permission for excess.  Jesus says it is OK to overdo it.  What gives?  How is there value in throwing money away?

We are surrounded by darkness.  We see the problems of the world every day.  The temptation is to pour our whole selves solely into saving the world in any way that we can.  But Jesus points us to the idea that we must not always address the dark.  Sometimes we are called to celebrate in the light.  Sometimes we must sing, even if the poor are still poor.  Sometimes we need to eat well, even feast, even if there are hungry people in the world.  We are not called to a life without; instead, we are called to a life of moderation. 

As the Buddhist tenet says, “everything in moderation including moderation.”  We can fast but we must also learn to feast when it is the right time. We must learn when to go without and when to spend prodigally. As the poet Jack Gilbert argues in his remarkable and wonderful poem “A Brief for the Defense”, we must risk the ability to delight in the world.  Indeed, Gilbert goes so far as to argue that only to pay attention to injustice is akin to praising the devil. We must learn to love beauty, to enjoy company, to celebrate when the time is right, and to love a beautiful and wonderful world, even in the face of injustice.

We must learn to live with what we have, but this means having room to celebrate, to feast, to enjoy as well. We must feast when the bridegroom is present. We must risk delight.


For a copy of Jack Gilbert’s “A Brief for the Defense”, pick up a copy of “Refusing Heaven” at your local bookseller.  For a chance to read the poem, visit the Poetry center at Smith College website:

Discussion Questions

  • What is something you “feast” on, something that helps you celebrate life?  (i.e. music, eating with friends, dates with your beloved, buying gifts)  What would life feel like without this feasting?  How would it feel to lose this forever?
  • This “thing” that you feast on, what would it look like to live this in moderation? Could you put limits on what you spend?  What time you give?


Activity Suggestion

The Essentials:  Have every person in the group sit down with pencil and paper.  They are going to take a trip, let’s say to Paris, for two weeks.  Have each person take about 5 minutes to write down a packing list.  Try to think of everything they would want to bring.

After they go, have everyone share their lists with one another.  If someone says the same thing as on your list, cross it off your lists. If someone says 2 pairs of pants, cross two off but leave the 3rd. After everyone shares, see what items remain on people’s lists that have not been crossed off.  Then discuss:

  • These things left on your list, do you consider them essentials?  Why or why not?  What would happen if you left these behind?
  • These things everyone crossed off, which of these things do you think you could do without in traveling?  What would happen if you left them behind?
  • How do you decide what is necessary in life?  What guides your decisions?  Is it how you feel?  What you think?


Closing Prayer: 

Jesus, we celebrate your presence.  We feast with you every Sunday.  We thank you that we may live a life of plenty.  But also teach us God with what we should do with our plenty.  Teach us moderation so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways.  In your holy name we pray, AMEN.