Lefse, grilled cheese and second chances

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October 9, 2016
Luke 17:11-19
21st Sunday after Pentecost
Shera Nesheim, Deacon

I’ve been reading about my grandmother’s family history and their trek from Norway to America and settling here. My grandmother’s grandmother, Maria Snow, was born in 1874 in Norway. She was 9 years old when her family moved to America. While en-route she became sick with the measles, and was isolated from the rest of the passengers. Knowing that she was not getting enough to eat, the rest of her family tried to help her by pushing bits of lefse under the door of her room, which they were not allowed to enter. During the 11-day voyage, she recovered.

We don’t often think about the impacts of a skin disease deeply affecting our lives, even our future. Maria could have easily died on that boat, but her family desperately did whatever they could to reach through the barriers to help her survive, and you could say, that’s a part of the reason I’m here today.

In Luke, there are 10 men who are completely separated from their community because of skin disease. They are contagious and unclean, and for the wellness of the whole community, they are isolated and displaced. Upon hearing that Jesus has arrived, they cry out from the distance to him. Asking for his mercy. Hoping that he might hear them from afar.

The beautiful thing is, Jesus hears. And Jesus not only hears their plea, but he tells them to go on their way to the priests, that they might be made well and re-enter their communities. On their way they find themselves healed, and one man, a Samaritan man, an outcast by the religious, decides to turn back. He returns to the source of his healing, to draw close to Jesus, to humble himself at the feet of his savior and to give thanks for his new life.

A friend of mine recently shared a story of being given second chances and new life: She writes: “Dang, this is one amazing world. A man just asked me for directions at the intersection. He was taking transit and already late for an appointment so I offered to put him in an Uber, which was a new name to him. He told me that he just finished 4 months of residential treatment for marijuana. He’d had a problem dealing drugs, he said, and got busted with two ounces. They gave him a choice between treatment or a year in the penitentiary. They don’t let residents have phones in treatment so he used my phone to call the transitional housing place he got lost looking for, to say he’d be late. We talked about how much harder it would be to find housing if he had served time. It would be impossible, he said, no one wants a felon. I told him that my friend Emily Turner is raising money to start a social enterprise called All Square that aims to employ people with criminal records. It’s a gourmet grilled cheese shop, I said, kind of expecting him to laugh. But his eyes lit up. I got some change in my pocket to give her, he said earnestly, and then placed it in my hand. This is what giving from the heart looks like.”

All Square has its name because they serve square gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, but they also believe that once you have paid your debts to society your slate is clean and you have a fresh start. You are “all square” with society. But the reality is the opposite. 1 in 3 American adults have a criminal record that haunts them and prevents them from getting jobs and housing. The founder, Emily Turner of Minneapolis, is only $8,000 away from making her goal on kickstarter to raise $50,000 to launch All Square. So that no matter your past, you have a future that includes a job. And for many, that makes all the difference.

Jesus reaches out to those who are the most marginalized. The criminals, the lepers, the prostitutes, the widows and the poor. Jesus believes that each person’s future matters more than their past.

No matter who we are, we are in need of a Jesus who reaches out to us across the chasm to give us life. Sometimes depression or illness makes it seem like God is so far away. Other times it’s our pure stubbornness to let go of the stuff of life. Or in the aftermath of a disaster where we feel we have lost everything. The people of Haiti cry “Lord have mercy!” as the waters recede and the wind stops. All people affected by hurricanes, violence and war cry, “Lord have mercy!” When we get sick of the politics that constantly bombard us, we sigh, “Lord have mercy.” Whether we are judged externally by our community or not for our sins, many of us can relate to having times in our life we have felt so distant from God, at a point of such lowness, that we are drawn to our knees with nothing left to do but cry out for someone to save us. We cry the words of the lepers, “Lord, have mercy.” We are desperate to be heard and to be healed.

Perhaps we take this healing in as the bread of Holy Communion, or lefse or grilled cheese…we take in the source of life so that we might survive. We are always being drawn in by our Creator God, the very source of life and hope, to be fed and healed by His grace, so that we too might give thanks and praise with a joyful and transformed heart.  It might feel strange to sing the kyrie as a sad lamentation, and then sing the hymn of praise with joy and thanksgiving. But isn’t that our faith journey? That we can share together with our community a cry of “Lord have mercy” and share also in praise to Christ in whom we find our salvation.


If you want to check out the kickstarter for “All Square” and watch the video: