I don’t know why but for some reason this week’s Gospel has caused me to reflect a lot on the Ministry in the Church, and how people respond to the gifts that are given. It certainly shows us what we preachers can expect when the Gospel is preached, when the Sacraments are administered, indeed, when the keys are used in any form in the Church–only a few will truly recognize these things, and those who bring them, for the blessings that they are. There may be only a few in your congregations, fellow preachers, who declare: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.” There may be only a few who return to Christ in thanksgiving when you offer the Sacrament weekly. There may be only a few, maybe only one (!) who shows gratitude for the Ministry that you bring in Christ’s Name.
The rest will receive the gifts like everyone else, but will not necessarily be jumping for joy or throwing themselves at your feet. So what? “Where are the nine?” That’s all Jesus asks. That is all we may ask: “Where are the nine?” Luther in his house postil on this text makes a big point about how a Christian must also bear with ingratitude just as Christ had to bear with it. Those people in your congregation who seem to receive the gifts with little or no gratitude in their hearts are still healed, but they shouldn’t cause us any great consternation. It is no cause for us to lash out at them, or to make a big deal of the fact that “the majority of my congregation does not appreciate me.”
This Gospel shows us that this can be expected. And I think to some extent we have all experienced that. In every congregation, though all receive the same gifts, there are a few who really seem to “get it.” And we are very thankful for those few, those “Samaritans.” To them we say: “Your faith has made you well!” Thanks be to God for those in our congregations who recognize the blessings that are present in the Ministry of the Word! Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.
I happen to be blessed with a congregation where it would appear that the majority of people are truly thankful for the Ministry that is conducted here. That may last only a little while, until something happens that is extremely unpopular. And, it could be too that people are just being nice, or that my perception is off. There may be more who are dissatisfied than I realize. And that may come out more and more as the years go on.
But for my fellow preachers, especially you who struggle with congregations where maybe only one or two see the blessing that you are, and the blessing that the Word and Sacraments are, it’s okay. It happened to Jesus too. “Where are the nine? Was no one found to give thanks to God except this foreigner?” Don’t worry too much over the rest. It may take years for them to say: “Beautiful are your feet, pastor, for bringing the Good News.” Or, they may never say it. But they will probably still be with Christ when they die. God bless you for continuing to preach and proclaim the mercy of God in Jesus Christ!