Last Thursday evening Trinity’s Board of Elders and Stephen Ministers sponsored an evening with Mr. Greg Reuss, a local representative from the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. There was much for us to hear and learn about. Some of the notes I took down as I listened: “We need a culture where everyone needs to be smart about mental health” (only 2 in 5 people who need mental health services seek them out). I found it helpful (though not surprising) that the best way for us as a church to come alongside folks who are contemplating suicide may be to train their peers to engage with them—or look for our own peers who may be at risk. Greg told us: “The most important thing you can put between a suicidal person and their way of ending their life is time. Engage with them!” “Don’t try to convince a suicidal person that life is worth living. Don’t try to fix things. Be there and listen.” Survivors of those who take their own lives need our ongoing support; when the time is right, they may even be able to educate us about what they are experiencing and how we can help. “The message for survivors is: ‘You are not alone.’” All in all, it was a privilege to hear Mr. Reuss’s own personal story and see how God is using him to spread awareness of an issue that is difficult to talk about but so important for us to come together and address. Many thanks to Stephen Leader Susan Thompson and Head Elder John Hargraves for organizing this event!
All of this is in my mind as I now turn my attention to our Gospel Reading for this Sunday…the familiar story of Jesus’ healing 10 lepers (you can read it here). The usual application for this text is the focus on the “one cleansed leper who returned to give God thanks.” The text is usually seen primarily as encouragement for us to give God thanks for the blessings we enjoy. For as Martin Luther himself once wrote in explaining the first article of the Apostles’ Creed….we might not be lepers healed of that particular affliction, but we believe God has created us and all that exists, has given us and still preserves our body and soul with all their powers while bestowing on us food and clothing, home and family, daily work, and all we need from day to day….And that God does all of this out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, though we do not deserve it, so that “I surely ought to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” All of that is indeed absolutely, most certainly true! But some folks may not be in a place where they are able to give thanks so readily to God. Like the 10 lepers when they first encounter Jesus, they are still crying out “Lord, have mercy!” Are we listening for that cry in the people around us? Are we taking the time to truly hear one another and carry one another’s burdens? And when we offer the “Lord, have mercy!” prayer ourselves, are we finding its answer in the One who had mercy, has mercy, and will have mercy on all who cry out for help, seeking the healing that only He can give?
This Sunday, once again, we will have opportunity to come together as one body of people and cry out with the ten lepers to God together, “Lord, have mercy!” Thank heaven that Jesus answers our deepest need: the need for forgiveness and soul-healing that only He can provide. Receiving Him again in the mystery of the Lord’s Supper we truly have something to be thankful for! Let’s enter into God’s mercy again today like the one lone Samaritan who first cried out to Jesus, “Lord, have mercy!” May we find there the grace to live out the gratitude of people who have received all that we are and have from the Father’s generous hand.