Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Ten Lepers

Eric Borndal, who leads our youth, welcomed us this morning and led the service. This weekend Pastor Brad is on a foray somewhere in the wilderness in pursuit of morel mushrooms.

The announcements today were brief, but no less important for their brevity. Paula Saxin made two announcements. The first pertaining to a memorial for Ben next Saturday. A light lunch will be served. The second was a reminder regarding a June church rummage sale in which half the proceeds will go to the Breaking the Bonds outreach that seeks to increase awareness of and put an end to the trafficking of women. Susie Newman stood and gave practical instructions regarding the picking up of things which had been donated to the art show.

If you did not see the creativity which was on display, you missed something. There was a lot of talent on display here this past week and we're hoping next year to see even more. Thanks to all who contributed.

Darlene played a moving introit again, helping shift the mood from light hearted church business to reflective preparation of the heart and mind for worship, which today was led by Pearl, Ellie, Chuck and Ken, accompanied by Darlene.

Ed Newman led a children's moment this morning, illustrating some Biblical truths from a painting the kids did Wednesday night at Adventure Club. The project involved having each young person choose a color, choose a brush and choose a location on the painting to paint a stripe. (The image above is the finished piece.) Ed commented on his delight in watching each one choose a color, a brush and apply the paint. He noted that God, too, delights in us and enjoys seeing our choices, our creativity, hearing us sing, all that we do to bring beauty to the world.

Then Ed asked one of the children which stripe she painted, and she pointed out the stripe second from the top. When he asked if she knew who painted the other two stripes on the sides of hers, she didn't... The point was made that often unaware of how our lives touch the lives of those around us.

Ultimately, God is delighted at the various colors our lives contribute to the larger painting that is our church family. Though from our human vantage point we cannot see it, from His perspective it is a work of exceeding beauty.

Today's Scripture readings were from Acts 4:5-12 and John 10:11-18. After a time of prayer, and a hymn, Leonard gave the message.

The Ten Lepers

The passage upon which today's message was based is found in Luke 17:11-19, the famous passage where Jesus heals ten lepers. Despite the familiarity of this passage for some, Leonard brought us insights and observations that made the text fresh and alive.

11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"
14When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.
15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

In verses 12 and 13 we read that the lepers stood at a distance a shouted to Jesus. This is because in accordance with the Old Testament rules and the laws of the day, lepers could not approach people. They were unclean, and had to let it be known as such.

Leonard noted that Jesus did not do all His miracles or healings in the same way. In this instance he gave them instructions to go show themselves to the priests. When they followed His command, they were healed along the way.

One of these, a Samaritan, when he discovered he was healed returned, praising God and throwing himself at Jesus' feet.

It's a passage that contains many lessons for us, but the one Leonard effectively highlighted was with regard to gratitude.

Leonard asked two questions regarding gratitude. (1) Are we expressing it? And (2) are we expecting it?

With regard to the latter, we seldom get as much as we think we deserve. The result, if we allow ourselves to dwell on this feeling of being unappreciated, is bitterness. Expecting gratitude and not getting it will eat away at us.

It's important to talk about gratitude because gratitude has a real impact on our relationships. In this story, the Samaritan came back to give thanks not because it was a rule to follow, but because it was an attitude and an expression from his heart.

Sometimes, we expect others to thank us, to express their gratitude, and it spoils it. We can even get it into our heads that God, who owes us nothing, ought to be grateful for us and that sometimes we expect gratitude from God, who has already given us more than we deserve.

In chapter 6 of the Book of Esther, King Darius was having difficulty sleeping one night so he ordered the chronicles of his reign to be brought in and read to him. When he hears of the good deed of Mordecai who uncovered a conspiracy against the king, he asked if Mordecai had been thanked or honored in some way. It was important to show Mordecai the king's gratitude.

Leonard pointed out that God rewards us not for having followed the rules, but rather when our praise or good deeds are a generous expression of the gratitude that is in our hearts.

Paul at one point asked God to remove a "thorn in the flesh" which was problematic for him. But God did not remove this thing. Rather, He said, "My grace is sufficient for you."

Sometimes our expectations will only leave us disappointed.

Leonard then directed us to how Medal of Honor winners often achieve their awards. The classic example is a hand grenade which a soldier dives onto, sacrificing his life in order to save the lives of his brothers in arms. We learned today that the son of one of our former pastors died in Viet Nam in this manner, sacrificing himself to save others. And how like our Lord, who likewise gave His all to save us.

Leonard told an emotional personal story about his father who expressed gratitude to Leonard on one occasion and how much it meant to him. Unexpectedly, his father died shortly thereafter. Leonard was moved when in the aftermath of his father's loss many other people expressed gratitude for his father. Leonard said that even if you can't express it directly, these indirect expressions can be very powerful.

We were urged to share our gratefulness for spouses, and others. And to not expect too much in return. In this story we see that even Jesus only received 10% of the thanks which He deserved.

The message touched many, and after the service I believe there were many expressions of gratefulness conveyed.

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