Jeremiah 29;1,4-7
The people of Israel are in exile, but Jeremiah still asks them to seek the welfare of the city in whcih they live as foreigners. They are to live as God’s faithful people, no matter what the context.
Psalm 66:1-12
A call for all the earth to praise the God who rules over all, and for all nations to bless God.
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Although Paul is inprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Christ’s resurrection, the Gospel itself is not imprisoned. God offers life to those who die with Christ, and God remains always faithful, which is why Paul encourages Timothy to remind people of these thigns and to continue to serve and teach faithfully.
Luke 17:11-19
Jesus sends ten men with a skin disease to show themselves to the priests and they are healed as they go, but only one, a Samaritan, returns to give thanks.
(Summary of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

The Road Through No-Man’s Land
Ten men united by dis-ease,
suffering both leprosy and
social rejection, bound together
by mutual repulsiveness,
inhabitants of no-man’s land.
Society, bound in its fear
of dread disease, convinced
of curse and sin, wallows,
in ambivalence, condemns
the hapless, piously
taking God’s name in vain.
One man, on a journey toward
his own rejection, penetrates
the impenetrable, crosses
into the “bad lands,”
mixes with the lowly
in the name of the most high.
Ten men, sent for examination
healed as they pass along the road.
Nine go, who knows where?
One, sensing unfinished business,
returns in thanksgiving,
departs in wholeness.
One man on his way to a cross
heals ten men with no destination.
One man gives thanks, receives life.
It all happened along the way;
in a place called “no-man’s land,”
that place of desolation
where dwells the kingdom of God.
(Source: William Dean, The House Blend, published 2008)

Lord God
Our lives are like the borderlands. We divide people into us and them. Insiders and outsiders. Friends and strangers. Those we love and those to be feared.
Our lives are like the village. We build walls around our serves and bar the gates. We let only those we want to inside. We judge others from the watch tower. We refuse entry and shut the gates to those we fear, those we are in don’t want to help, those different to ourselves, and those we don’t like. We protect ourselves from those we consider unworthy or outcasts.
Our lives are like those of the lepers, we find ourselves rejected and shunned by others. We stand outside. We find ourselves in need of healing and acceptance. We look for someone to love and care for us. To accept us.
May our life be like the healed leper receiving your Grace. May we be healed from the weeping sores of pride and selfishness. May the lesions of our apathy and fear be washed clean. May the scars of our ungratefulness and indifference towards others be replaced with new skin.
Lord God forgive and heal us. And as we express our thanks to you for the Grace you show us may we rise to follow you.
In Christ we pray. Amen
(Source: Glenn Elliott-Rudder, Facebook post on Preaching up a Storm, 2019)

(*Sing: Come all you people….)
The whole earth sings praise!
Wild wind whips glory,
babbling brook skipping sings,
green fields davening sway.
The smallest ears pick up the tune
that hums and pulses through all things.
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
Oh God, Mother of all,
let my life move with
the earth songs beneath my feet
and the star songs above my head.
Let my heart jig and caper like a young lamb.
Let my soul sing and sigh and signify.
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
No corner of the earth is apart from your power.
Everywhere a woman may roam,
she will see the signs and hear the songs:
Each day a new day.
Each moment an opportunity.
Each step, each listening step,
a step in hope’s direction.
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
How may I live my gratitude, but with humble attention,
with an ear quick to listen,
gaze penetrating to see, a heart ready to love, hands eager to bless,
with a mind slow to judge and probing to discern,
with feet that move in hope’s direction,
dancing earthstar songs of praise. So be it.
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
(Source: Psalms Redux by Carla A. Grosch-Miller)
Note: If you search Redux Psalms you can download the file of them.

*Suggestion to sing “Come all you people, come and praise your maker (X3), come now and worship the Lord” by Alexander Gondo (arranged by John L. Bell)at the spots marked with an asterisk. 

Gospel Feelings resources here.

Praise the Holy Name (reflecting on Psalm 66:1-12)
create a sound from deep within,
sing full, cry out, speak loud for all
to hear your praises of the Holy One.

all life on earth, whatever breathes,
return that breath with gratitude
to the Source, the Breath, the Wind.

with joyful voice, delighted heart,
with wonder, awe, and love, sing
true the splendour of God our Maker.

sing the greatness, ring out the radiance
with bells peeling through city streets,
music floating above the fields.

give as you have been given – with joy
immeasurable, generosity unstoppable,
let it bubble and pop and spout and flow.

sing low, sing high, sing gladness that rides
the night time horses as boldly as it
frolics in the sunshine – only sing!

sing your songs of praise to God, all
who dwell on earth; sing day and night,
sing forever to the name of holiness itself.

(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray The Story)

Reader’s Theatre for the Story of the Ten People Healed from Leprosy 
(This reader’s theatre follows the text and portrays nine different possible reasons folks did not return to thank Jesus for healing … real reasons that reflect who we are and how we experience the healing events in our own lives. Historical background: in a desperate attempt to protect society from the more virulently contagious forms of disease, all people with any skin disfigurement were herded together so that, in fact, most soon had the dreaded disease of leprosy. Even suspicion of the disease put a person in the leper enclave for seven days. Only on specific occasions and with completely whole and unbroken skin could a person petition the priest to be declared clean and thus reverse the feared and isolating “unclean, unclean.” These isolated first century people remind us of the way that society cuts off many with chronic illnesses and life-situations, including such a wide range as COPD, Parkinson’s, ALS, dementia, living on the autism spectrum, and addiction.
Since the portrayers in this skit speak one at a time they can be seated in front and each stand and each stand to speaking front all the time as long as #1 rushes off or they can pop up from their places in the pews/chairs and sit down again. All except #1 have a bell of some kind.

Leper # 1
(walking across the stage – only one without a bell) Yes, of course I originally had a bell! I’m way too busy to think about it now. Turning point! Definitely, a turning point in my life. I have to say I miss those quiet, sick days – just joking! I’m a Temple Deacon – came from showing myself to the priests, you know. I inherited my family’s business – couldn’t have done that as a leper. But you know business – 24 / 7! Married. Two kids – they’re into “little legion” ball. There’s always a game! (looks at watch) Got to go!

Leper # 2
(rings his bell) My name is Amos T and I’m a recovering leper. Jesus of Nazareth turned my life around. I keep this bell (rings it again) just to remind myself that I am illness free one day at a time. Most of you (looks or points at Leper #1) rush past your precious fragile life, but if you’d have an illness like mine – you know how important every day it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t go back and thank Jesus – not then. I was overwhelmed. It wasn’t until I had a little time in the program and was doing an inventory of my life that I realized I should have gone back. Then I saw from the police blotter in the Jerusalem Daily Democrat that it was too late. Still I have a feeling maybe it’s never too late.

Leper # 3
(looks around nervously hand clapped over the bell) Just don’t say anything! Nobody knows and it’s nobody’s business anyway. It’s in the background check, if you really need the story. That’s why they call it a back-ground check – because that’s where it is supposed to stay – in the background. (In a stage whisper) Look, I was not as bad as the rest of them anyway. It’s not … well … really … it wasn’t like that at all. And going back to the healer …. what was his name anyway? … would have drawn attention to me.

Leper # 4
He told us what to do. Oh, yes, here’s my bell. (rings it) I’ve still got it as a souvenir.
This is exactly what happened. We traveled together for safety. People think it’s really funny to hurt lepers. Ha! Ha! Get a life. Look at me — a leper — telling regular people to “get a life.” He’s right (pointing to #2) Most of you don’t know how good you have it.
Back to the story. We kept our distance – called out to this well-known traveling preacher for mercy. You should have seen the eyeballs on his disciples! Scared! They were wetting themselves just being that close to ten lepers.
He said, “Go show yourself to the priests.” Just like that – with authority – and I could feel it – a tingle started at my scalp and went all the way to my toes. Amazing. I did what he said. I’ve done it all my life – followed directions. The letter of the law. He didn’t say anything about coming back. Improvise on Jesus’ script. No thanks.

Leper # 5
(acting young) Totally. Totally. I was so sick. I didn’t have a clue! 24-7 with the bells! My hair … it fell out … and my nails. You do not want to know how sick I was! Too much information. Do people still say that? Well, I assure you — you do not want to know!
Jesus? He was awesome. So amazing. He said (deepens her voice dramatically) “Go off to the priests and show yourself.” Whoa! I’m sooooo into Jesus. Totally grateful. But my friends kept on going, so, you know, of course, I did too.

Leper # 6
The point is – who healed us anyway? (rings bell) that ding-a-ling Jesus of Nazareth who got himself crucified for acting like God or the lawful authorities? He said it himself, “Go to the priests.” He knew where the real power was. Besides it was probably just a coincidence – meeting him and suddenly all ten of us being healed.
Off the record? I think a little group hallucination that happens around faith healers was going on. Then maybe not all of us were really lepers – I was but some people … you know … it has to be about them.
So coincidence, fakers, the legitimate medical establishment – or all of the above? Jesus healing us. Not a chance. So why would I go back?

Leper # 7
I needed closure (ring bell) The trauma of leprosy left me with an emotional disability. The last thing I needed for my personal well-being was to re-visit the past. I can quote Jesus on the subject, “Let the dead bury the dead.” You have to take care of yourself first. You know (to folks to the congregation) when I am done with this skit, I will probably need therapy for post-dramatic stress syndrome.)

Leper # 8
Now I know this is politically incorrect. I’m a bell-ringer. Can’t deny it. (rings bell)
and in that situation I had to be with … well, you know. I wasn’t raised to … So there was this miracle and I looked down and saw how smooth and clean and … white my skin was, and I whirled around to go and thank Jesus before heading to the Temple. And this … foreigner is already on his way back. I just couldn’t! It would have looked like we were together. Look, he was probably an illegal …

Leper # 9
Don’t judge me. Don’t judge any of us if you don’t know what it is to be a leper. “Oh, there go the nine who didn’t say, ‘thank you.” You’re so high and mighty. Bet you never had anything eating you inside out. No? I thought not. Night and day chronic pain. Some of us looked disgusting and some of us didn’t and that may have been worse because people think – “Hey nothing’s the matter with them!” How about fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, COPD — you know what I mean.
So there’s the pain and then there’s being an outcast. You spend enough time outside the boundaries of socially acceptable behavior … you lose it. You lose the skills. You just do. When people treat you like you’re not human, something human in you breaks.
Then there’s this amazing change. Our bodies were healed but it took time for the “us” on the inside to catch up. Am I getting through to you? You are so sure you know this story. You don’t understand – maybe you can’t, but just don’t be so damn quick to judge.

Leper # 10
I went … I’m the one who said, “thank you,” but I’m not better than any of these. I guess in my case the healing started in my heart and my feet just ran me back to where the power was coming from. Here’s the secret – when I went back to that man and fell at his feet, I happened to look in his eyes. And you know that awful pain of leprosy that went out of us … well, it had to go in somewhere. Well, when I looked into Jesus’ eyes, I could see … it. That was where the leprosy went.
“Thank you. O thank you!” and then he spoke to me, but it was to all of us — you heard me — all of us, whether we ‘thanked’ or not … (wincing and gesturing at bigot leper #8) even you. It was just my luck to hear it up close and personal, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
(Source: Maren C. Tirabassi, Gifts in Open Hands)

This very stylised sermon (which was a response to Tom Long’s book on Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible) on Jeremiah 29 is included in Doug Gay’s book on preaching, God Be In My Mouth
To all the exiles:
Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel
I have sent you into exile in Babylon
You are going nowhere quickly,
Don’t let the Ba-bylonians grind you down!
Build houses – build them strong – take your time – dig foundations – build them to last – build extra bedrooms for the kids and for their kids
Build houses to last you 70 years – and live in them – unpack the suitcases then throw them away – put your pictures up – make the place homely –
And outside mark the plots where you will bury both the elders and yourselves – you’re going nowhere quickly
You must live here – I mean you to live – within these walls, in the secret spaces, behind closed doors, prayers can be said and secrets whispered, the songs of Zion can be sung, the language kept alive, the stories told, your children taught 
within these walls dreams can be kept alive
– the dreams that Babylon cannot control
To all the exiles –
Plant gardens, take your time and build raised beds, dig ditches to water them, plan your crop rotations, plant trees which will take decades to give you fruit
the earth will keep on giving to you – dig the soil, push the seed in the ground, cover and water it, fertilise the crops, wait for the sun and the rain – plant olives and vines,
plant figs and pomegranates, plant lemons + oranges, almonds and apples
– bend your tastes to foreign food
Plant wheat for bread and vines for wine – – this is your Eden – this is your Canaan – this is your shift – this is your time – this is your place.
Here you must plant and harvest and eat and share – you are going nowhere quickly –
Within these gardens, seeds can grow, seeds of resistance and renewal, seeds of change, seeds of the future, seeds of hope,
Under these trees when they are grown, your children will sit down in circles
and will plan the journey home
To all the exiles
Don’t let the empire make you hate yourselves
Fall in love with one another – take wives and husbands – give yourselves to one another – dance at each other’s weddings – make new families, you are going nowhere quickly
Make love, make babies,
Be proud when your bellies stretch and swell, they are full of the promise of your future,
welcome and bless your sons and daughters,
teach them the old stories in new ways
Multiply, multiply, multiply – become more
don’t let Babylon reduce you, make you less,
grow up and on into the people you were made and meant to be
To all the exiles,
take this place of cursing, cruelty, enslavement
take this place of exile, this non-home,
these enemies and masters, bullies, racists, bosses
take them and seek their welfare – you are going nowhere quickly
bring your best to their worst –
dig tunnels of hope under the foundations of empire
pray hard for Babylon, pray daily for its good, seek its shalom,
in its shalom your own is lodged for now
do good, show love, do justice, live in peace – create a colony of heaven
which the power of empire cannot overcome
To all the exiles,
I know the plans I have for you
Plans for your good not for your harm
To give you all a future and a hope
I will restore you, I will gather you and bring you back,
I will be found by you and hear you..
You are going nowhere quickly
Build – Live – Plant – Harvest – Love – Marry – Multiply – Grow – Pray – Love – Hope
Seek the welfare of the city. For in it you will find your own. AMEN.[1]
[1] If you detect the influence of Walter Brueggemann behind this reading of Jeremiah, you are not wrong.

Call to worship
The whole world belongs to God.
Around us lies the kinship of the Christ.
As we walk its streets, our lives touch the beloved,
for all are gathered into the grace-filled hope of the Holy Spirit.
We are the messengers of God!
Our voices will be raised high for justice
and our lives a part of the healing
for all who wait in hope.
What an honour and a dream belongs to us,
for we are the people of God in our day.
(Source: Words for Worship 2010)

Prayer of thanksgiving
Our thanks arise from around the earth to you, O God.
All that lives celebrates your creative life and gifts in all their diversity.
We join the voices of those who have found themselves
walking with the Christ and being tranformed in that encounter,
with its experience of love and grace.
We thank you that no matter who we are
you notice our need and cherish us with your love. 
Thanks be to you, O  God. Amen.
(Source: Words for Worship 2010)

Prayer of confession
Jesus Christ, we know that our life as your church
has not always been gracious
with healing love for those who pass by.
Sometimes those aroudn us experience only our judgements
and perceive us as self-righteous.
Sometimes we have remained silent in the face of injustice
pressing on with our own agendas
and ignoring the vulnerable around us.
A silence is kept. 
Have mercy on us, Jesus Christ.
Renew within us a faithful love for others, we pray.
Sometimes you come to us in kindness
and offer us gifts for our own healing,
but we fail to be thankful.
We take your love for granted, O God,
or decide that we wanted a different answer to our prayers.
A silence is kept
Have mercy on us, Jesus Christ.
Renew within us a faithful love for others, we pray. Amen.
(Source: Words for Worship 2010)

Words of assurance
The healing which Christ brings to us is the offering of unconditional grace.
If we open our hearts to receive it, our lives will be transformed.
The Good News comes to us now: we are forgiven!
Thanks be to God!
(Source: Words for Worship 2010)

Prayers of Interecession
(see other prayers here).
O Jesus Christ, lover of the world,
may we bring your word to life
in the streets of the community around us.
Give us eyes to see those who long for healing, 
or who live in need and loneliness.
Give to us your wisdom as we relate to others, Holy Spirit,
offering true respect to them and inviting life in all its fulness.
May we become known as those who give genuine love to friend and stranger.
Help us to bring true care to the diverse people we meet,
crossing over barriers of difference,
so that the world may see in action
a love which goes beyond its own and reaches out to all.
We pray now for these people who we see around us:
(prayers are ofttfered)
Live within us, Jesus Christ.
Expand our minds and hearts and souls, 
so that we may relate to others
with generosity and kindness
no matter what the challenges to that love may be.
Call to us through the voices of those
who feel deserted by the world,
as people turn their faces away.
Give to us a grace which echoes your grace, loving Christ,
in spite of our humanity.
Then stay with us as we walk the road
which stretches before us on this day. Amen.
(Source: Words for Worship 2010)

Prayer of dedication/offering prayer
(see also prayers here).
O God, we know that we can influence the well-being of those around us.
Receive now what we have offered, and guide us in its use. 
This we pray in faith. Amen.
(Source: Words for Worship 2010)

Let us go in peace.
And may each street become a place of welcome,
each corner a turning towards the good,
and the holiness of God be as a breath of hope
for all the people of the world. Amen.
(Source: Words for Worship 2010)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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