The following is an adaption of my sermon preached on October 13, 2013. The live version had pictures of fish and videos of squirrels, so forgive me if this feels bland.
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
There is an app out there called Instagram. Basically, it’s like Facebook, but just for pictures and short videos. You take a picture, put a fun filter on it, and share it with your followers.
By following someone on Intsagram, you can usually get a good picture of what’s going on in their lives. And since most of us have cameras in our pockets, we are able to document much of our lives. simply take a picture of whatever’s in front of us at the moment. There are highs, there are lows, life hums along normally.
But there are moments in our lives where something deeper is going on. Where whatever is in front is more than just what’s in front of us. Moments that are screaming out at us to pay attention. Like, really pay attention.
In my world right now, it’s my kids. But it isn’t always.
Sometimes it’s nature. Sometimes it’s silence. Sometimes it’s weddings. Sometimes it’s conversations. Sometimes it’s singing. Sometimes it’s art. Sometimes it’s a garden. Sometimes it’s a book. Sometimes it’s bonfires. Sometimes it’s sports. Sometimes it’s a canoe ride.
Rob Bell writes it as this: Sometimes they catch you off guard; sometimes they sneak up on you from behind; sometimes you find yourself slowing down and becoming gripped with a certain stillness, like your heart is slamming on the brakes while it whispers in your ear: This matters. This is significant. Slow down. Pay attention.
These moments point past themselves to a larger reference point, to something or somewhere or sometime or someone beyond the experience itself.
These moments are almost transcendent.
And when we’re there, when we have those moments, what do we do? Well, we take out our iPhones and take a picture of it and tag all our friends.
Okay, besides that.
Where do these places lead us?
I hope that these moments that transcend reality lead us to a place of wonder. A place of awe. And a place of thankfulness.
The lepers in today’s story. 10 of them called out to Jesus, and they went to the priest and were healed. That was kind of a moment, wasn’t it? That was probably worth a photo on Instagram.
And then we read that 9 of them were unappreciative jerks, and only one went to the source of his new reality with the words: Thank you.
After he says thank you, Jesus words are quite phenomenal .
“Rise and go; Your faith has made you whole.”
Some translations say well. Others say whole.
Regardless, the man received his first blessing. The healing. The moment. The photo on Instrgram.
But he also received a second blessing. Him saying thank you leads to wholeness.
These transcendent moments we experience are phenomenal. And when we are able to say thank you, that too, is phenomenal.
Gratitude draws us out of ourselves into something bigger and grander that we could imagine. It pulls us out of our selfish world into a place where we want to create more of these moments and share them with the world. It’s not only about us or our families or the people who see our pictures. It’s about God’s world and out place in it.
In my house, we have two little children. Zach is 7 months, and Arianna is almost 3. I’ll be lying to say if you that raising them is easy. Zach is a cute kid who wake up at night a lot. We’re tired. He was up at 5:15 this morning, ready to go. For Arianna, well, she’s great when we come to church, but for us, watch out. Terrible twos. Nnnoooo! Sometimes, trying to get her to do anything is impossible. Supper time! No. I’m not hungry! And then she does flips on the couch. It’s time to go to church. I want my green flip flops! You don’t own green flip flops. Yes I do! Okay. We’re late. Let’s go. Get in your carseat. No. I want to do it. And then she climbs in, gets all dirty from the side of the car, and then insists on buckling herself up to. Normal 2 year old stuff, right? I hope… Plus all of this with no sleep. How some of you had 4 or 5 or 7 kids is beyond me.
I’d be lying to you if I said that it’s not exhausting. Many of us have been here before. I call it survival mode. Phil Campbell-Enns calls it “the Fog”. It’s hard.
But then… There are moments like these.
I took this picture of the kids in June.
The moment is great. But the gratitude points us beyond the dirty diapers and sleepless nights. It’s points us to wonder and awe and wholeness.
Take a moment, and try to think of a transcendent moment in your life. Where time stopped. Where your soul was saying: Pay attention. Remember this. I’ll give you some time.
Do you have that moment? Take a moment and say thanks.
But, I think the story of Jesus healing 10 men with leprosy has more to it than saying thanks for blessings.
So, as you may or may not know, I turned 30 a couple of weeks ago.
I knew this milestone has been coming for a while. But not just by looking in a calendar. Or a mirror.
I am now probably the second slowest players on my ultimate Frisbee team. Maybe this is because I don’t exercise as much as I used to, or maybe it’s because we always recruit 19 year olds to be our new players, but either way, I am slower. Not to mention how sore I am the next day when I lay-out for discs, which also isn’t as often as it used to be.
I also know that I am no longer in my early twenties because at youth retreats, I need to pace myself. I used to be able to keep up with those teenagers. My very first youth retreat as a pastor, I went to bed at 5 in the morning with the kids. Now, I need to take a nap so I can make it to 11.
But maybe one of the biggest signs of me being 30 is that all of a sudden I have become remarkably more reflective of my life. I am remarkably more self-aware than I was even 5 years ago. I’m not quite sure why. Some of it could be because the latest brain science shows that our brains stop developing around age 25, so I’ve had a good 5 years where my brain isn’t changing all the time. Some of it could be because I’ve been working with Mel for 3 years, and that guy is fairly reflective and thoughtful and maybe he’s just rubbing off on me.
But either way, turning 30 has brought on some fascinating thought processes.
And one of them is regret.
Regret is more or less a new feeling for me. I know that sounds funny, and it’s not as if I didn’t apologize for any mistakes I made before I was 30. But I have now lived long enough to have made some decisions that I regret.
Many of my regrets are about hurting people. That have hurt myself. That have left relationships more damaged than they were before.
They could be regrets for saying something stupid. That’s a lot of what my regrets are. Several years ago, my Aunt, my Grandpa’s sister, whom some of you may know, was in the hospital. I went to visit her one day, and she said one thing that stuck out to me. She said: “Kyle, when you and I get to heaven, we’re going to have to answer for a lot of the stupid things that we said while here on Earth. You’re Grandpa? Not so much. He’ll just get a free pass.” We have this wonderful ability to say hurtful things, and it’s often to the people whom we love the most.
Some of our regrets could be quite practical. We may regret the decisions we made about our jobs. Our marriages. Our kids. Our finances. Our spirituality. Our emotions. Or whether or not we should have clicked send on that email.
We’ve all made decisions or done things that we regret.
I often wonder about the 9 lepers who didn’t go back to Jesus to say Thanks. Now technically, they didn’t do anything wrong. Jesus didn’t tell them to come back and say thanks.
We don’t have to send thank you cards out after weddings. It’s the polite thing to do, but it’s not a law. The gifts were given as a gift, free of strings. We expect them, but the love we have for the couple shouldn’t be dependent on thank you cards.
But I wonder… did the 9 come to a realization later on in life that they missed out. That they should have gone to thank Jesus. Maybe it was when they got home and their partners asked, Did you thank Jesus for healing?. Oops.
Maybe it was years later, when people were starting to understand that Jesus was God’s son, and this new movement of Jesus followers was starting. Yeah… I love this Jesus guy. He healed me! I called out to him before he even rose from the dead! Did you thank him? Ummm… No.
Did they regret not returning to Jesus in gratitude?
A couple of years ago, my friend Aaron Epp decided that he was going to pray 5 times a day. He tells the following story, full of regret. But that regret leads him somewhere beautiful.
I’m kneeling in my living room with my head bowed and touching the ground, tears streaming down my face, telling God that I’m sorry. It’s the first day—and first prayer—of my month-long prayer experiment, and so far, things aren’t going so well.
I’m 28 years old and I grew up in the Mennonite church. I attended Sunday school and youth group, and I was baptized in Grade 12. During my first and second years of university, where I took English literature as well as biblical and theological studies, I preached the occasional sermon at my church.
But the best word to describe my faith life over the past four years is stagnant. My church attendance has been sporadic, and I haven’t regularly practised any spiritual disciplines. I’ve always considered myself to be a Christian, and I’ve always tried to be a good person, but I have not been growing very much in my faith.
Last year, the word “integrity” haunted me. If I say I’m a Christian and yet I’m not working on my relationship with Jesus Christ, am I living with integrity? In an effort to grow in my faith, and inspired by the Muslim faith tradition, I decided I would dedicate myself to praying five times a day throughout all of January.
I cried during that first prayer on that first day because I felt ashamed of myself. I repeated “I’m sorry” over and over. For some reason, I thought that God was upset with me, like he might be asking, “Why haven’t you spent more time with me over the last few years?” If you asked me to picture him at that moment, I’d describe a man standing over me with his arms crossed, a disapproving look on his face.
The lead pastor at the church I attend put me at ease a few days into my experiment when I met with him to discuss some things. I told him about the experiment, and he said, “God is always thrilled when we want to spend more time with him. It brings joy to God’s heart.”
Suddenly, the image of God that I had from that first prayer changed, and I was reminded of the parable of the Prodigal Son. I pictured God with his arms outstretched, wanting to embrace me, happy to have me back.
Did you see it? The movement from regret to gratitude?
The prodigal son is full of regret.
The son said to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
The father’s response?
“My son who was dead is alive again. He was lost and now is found.” So they began to celebrate.”
If those 9 lepers felt regret about not thanking Jesus and went and found him saying: “Sorry Man. You healed us. We were jerks. Forgive us.” I’m sure that Jesus would give them a hug and say: Rise and Go. Your faith has made you whole.
Take a moment, and try to think of a moment in your life that you regret. I’ll give you some time.
Do you have that moment? If you’re like me, there’s probably lots of them. Take a moment and share your feelings with God.
And when you’re done, imagine getting a hug. Rise and go: Your faith has made you whole.