Sunday May 3, 2015 | Seth McCoy
Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
In part of two of this two-part series on living wholeheartedly, Seth focused on the kind of heart that honors God. The focus of this teaching is the importance of gratitude, as noted through common myths about gratitude and possible danger of ingratitude or unspoken gratitude. We all have such a debt of love and the God-honoring way to pay back this debt is through gratitude and practical acts of love.
Seth started out this final teaching on living wholeheartedly by focusing on what kind of heart God truly honors. The negative object lesson was provided in story form regarding a man named Hank who lived without joy and had a pervasive negative attitude and perspective on life. Hank was a weekly church attender and yet his constant judgment, critique and complaint ostracized him from most communities. If the church is supposed to be the place in the world with the best opportunity to transform the human heart, how is it possible to be so invested in a church and be little changed in ways of the heart?
The transformation of the human heart is central to the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus and prophesied in Jeremiah 31:33-34. The law was to be written not on stone or paper, but would be written on every human heart. One of the central characteristics of a heart being transformed by God is living a life of gratitude and this was exemplified through the story of healing of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. This story begins by emphasizing that Jesus is on the border between Samaria and Galilee and comes in contact with an ostracized community of lepers. Jesus instructs these ten lepers to go find the priest BEFORE they are actually healed; a step of great faith and courage in an environment where leprosy carried immense social stigma. The crux of this story is that only one of these ten people come back to show any sort of gratitude to Jesus for the healing of their leprosy, and Jesus mentions that this person was a Samaritan (the last person a Jewish audience would have suspected).
Gratitude is critical to our ability to grow in living wholeheartedly, but there are two common myths that must be tackled first. The first myth is that you need more stuff to be more grateful which is simple to debunk once you meet someone who has received more stuff. The second myth is that you can become more grateful simply by trying harder. The reality is that you can’t be more grateful by simply trying harder, but you can slowly move in that direction through training and practice.
The training of gratitude was illustrated by Seth’s story about Christmas in his home as a child and the militant procedure of thank you notes within an agreed upon timetable. The trouble with this training was that in the difficult circumstance of attempting to run a business, Seth had forgotten this lessen in life of showing gratitude. It can be so easy to forget that there is no such thing as a self-made success and we all need people and we all owe somebody (Romans 13:8 notes this debt of love we have to God and how love and gratitude towards others is our way of paying back this debt). It is not simply a matter of being grateful, we must learn how to express it in thoughtful and timely ways. Others often experience unexpressed gratitude as the same thing as ingratitude. How does somebody else experience gratitude that you just think about?
The sermon concluded with a re-telling of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32. Seth related this story to living in the world of wages where there is satisfaction in hard work. The problem with the world of wages is that you must confront what you do when you follow the path of the younger son. Seth relayed his own experience as an abandoned son by his birth mother, as a chosen son by his adopted family and as the prodigal son during his time walking away from God. The reason Christians should be the most grateful people in the world is that we already have what we want. We have a home and the Father gives it to us. We have been loved, forgiven and are able to opt out of the world of wages. The goal of the story of the Prodigal Son is not for us to be younger son or the older son, but to live out the love, gratitude and forgiveness of the Father.
The final note in this sermon was done through the simple, yet thought-provoking, words of Kid President who encouraged us to find simple ways to love and show gratitude to those around us. The hope is that tomorrow your day-to-day life will have more moments of gratitude than grumbling.