Luke 17: 11-19 (Sermon 1: “What Does it Mean to be Healed?)
2 Timothy 2: 8-15
Jeremiah 29: 1, 4-7 (Sermon 2: Make the Most of It”)
Psalm 66: 1-12
Here we have opportune time to re-ground ourselves in God.
The love of Christ so leads us.
The joy of the Lord be with you all.
And also with you.
It is time for pausing and praising, for thinking and thanking,
for listening and learning, for confessing and forgiving.
This is time for allowing ourselves to be loved and cherished
by a Lover who will never leave us or forsake us.
Give praise to our God, you people everywhere,
Let the songs of our praise be widely heard!
Say to God: “How awesome are your actions,
Before your sheer love, all evil cringes away.”
All around the earth we worship you;
we sing praises to your name,
we sing praises to your name!
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Holy Friend, please release in us that spirit of joyful thanks which is too often cramped down by our work and worries, or ignored by our trivial pleasures and entertainments.
Release the real joy of Christ in us, that with adoring gratitude we may link our little spirits with your majestic Spirit, and find that inflow of health which rejuvenates our whole being. Through your true Son, our Saviour.
CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE
God is always ready to hear our confession. Are we are reeady to front us and to ‘fess up”
Let us pray.
When others expose our obvious faults and sins, when we ourselves get angry with our less obvious and secret sins, thank goodness, loving God, for Christ Jesus our Redeemer!
Other people may project shame on us and shun us, we may find ourselves hard to live with,
but you come to us with a relentless grace and therapeutic mercy that forgives and heals.
You are the light that exposes all shabbiness,
the physician who diagnoses with total accuracy,
the surgeon who cuts away disease and corruption,
the pharmacist who prescribes the right salve,
and the nurse who encourages our sore spirits back to health.
You, Jesus Christ, are our loving judge and our enduring Saviour.
Please deal with us not exactly as we ask, and not as we deserve,
but with that wise compassion which knows what is best for us,
now and always.
My sisters and brothers in Christ: God knows from personal experience how difficult it isto be a truly good person, when living under the pressures of a busy life in a world where evil seems to prosper and goodness appears to languish.
Your God knows and provides mercy and renewal. You are a forgiven, trusted and empowered people.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
And also with you!
PRAYER FOR CHILDREN
Christ the Healer
You, Lord Jesus, are like a doctor
who can see what’s wrong with us
and help make us better.
Only you are much smarter
than any other doctor.
You look right through us
into our thoughts and feelings
so that you can put things right.
Thank you, Dr Jesus,
for being our Saviour.
PSALM 66: 1-12
Circle the earth with a ‘Mexican wave’ for God!
Surround the globe with rapturous songs!
Shout together about God’s awesome deeds,
of the power that makes devils cringe!
Let all the earth combine in worship,
sing psalms and joyful songs to God’s name.
Just take a look at what our God has done,
such sensational things for humanity.
The sea becomes a path like the dry land,
deep rivers are easily crossed.
When it’s all happening we celebrate our God,
whose strength goes on forever.
God keeps an eye on the nations,
lest politicians become full of themselves.
It’s our privilege to praise in city and country,
to make sure joy is everywhere heard.
God gives us a place among the living,
and does not allow our feet to fatally slip.
We know that you have tested us, God,
we are like silver purified by fire.
You make us fight our own way out trouble,
our backs have bent under the strain.
Others may have walked all over us,
yet from flood and fire we breath again.
© B.D. Prewer 2000
POEM: Beyond Words
This ‘Searching One’
of which the word “grace”
but faintly whispers
(inadequate as a thimble
to cup the sea)
comes looking for lost coins
in the dust and darkness
where the lost lie.
This Shepherd One
of which the word ‘love’
only touches the fringes
(inadequate a candle
at the high noon)
takes the rugged path
through the wilderness
where the lost soon die.
This Parent One
of which the word ‘joy’
but tamely hints
(inadequate as one note
to describe a symphony)
runs to meet the lost
with open arms
and a father’s cry!
© B D Prewer, 1993 & 2012
POEM: GIVING THANKS
He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet
and gave thanks. Luke 1716
To bow down when all things seem well,
to give thanks for the smallest blessing,
then are we healed.
To bow down when health is recovered,
and to know it a bonus not a right,
then are we healed.
To bow down when others rush off to party,
to love the Healer more than self,
then are we healed.
To bow down when disease runs wild,
and believe that nothing is God-less,
then are we healed.
To bow down in the hour of dying,
to have peace as the light fails,
then are we healed.
© B.D. Prewer 2003
God our Creator and Redeemer, open our eyes to a larger awareness of your goodness, and our souls to deeper gratitude. Then, uplifted with thanksgiving, may we give ourselves to unpleasant tasks with good grace, and show irk-some people a good will such as we offer our best friends. Through Christ Jesus our ever-present Lord.
SERMON 1: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HEALED?
Jesus said to him[ the Samaritan leper]: ‘Stand up and get going; you faith has healed you.’’
This is one of those weeks when I have not been able to get the sermon together in my head. Too many ideas; too many loose ends. It just would not jell..
I can tell you what my aim is. to start with Jesus’ words to the healed leper-- ‘your faith has saved you.’ I want to try and rehabilitate the words “salvation’ and “saved” from misuse, and to affirm the availability of the salvation of Christ for us all.
Be patient with me, please, as I attempt and work my way through it.
Starting point: Ten lepers, all cured of their sickness by Jesus. Nine raced off to get a health certificate from the priests. One, who was a despised Samaritan, remained to first thank Jesus.
Question: Were the nine healed or merely cured of a physical disease? Was the Samaritan who gave thanks the only one who was fully healed?
This is a word I want to reclaim from an oppressive religious use by high adrenalin zealots.
Quote: Albert Outler:
“Abrasive zealots fling their Bibles around like missiles — eyes ablaze, bodies coiled for pouncing on the hapless sinner”
“The flaming rhetoric of..... “Do you want to be saved? Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want to be ready when Jesus comes again? Are you eager to flee from the wrath to come while others perish in their sins?”
In New Testament times: Soteria was also a much used secular word.
It had two basic meanings; rescue and good health.
The most common usage among ordinary people, the hoi poloi (as in the low-brow language of the Greek N.T.) was for good health. If you met an old friend you might ask: “How is your soteria?”
Or you might comment; “You are lucky, you have such good soteria.”
On the other hand, in the older classics of Greek literature, as widely read by the elite in later Roman times, the most regular use of soteria is rescue. “I thank the gods for your soteria from the shipwreck.”
I reckon we would do the church a service if for a period of time we used the “health” meaning rather than the ‘rescue’. (The rescue meaning as in “are you saved” has far too often been confined to being saved from punishment in the future life.)
Salvation is the opposite of disease: Disease is dis-ease; loss of well being. Soteria heals dis-ease; makes us whole.
FOUR ASPECTS OF SALVATION
= bodily health (liberation from physical dis-ease)
= emotional health (a whole person; peace; liberation from inner dis-ease)
= spiritual health (at-one-ment; liberation from dis-ease with God)
= social health (relationships; liberation from interpersonal dis-ease)
All of these overlap and interrelate-:
Bodily dis-ease: can effect how we treat those around us and how we feel about God
Relationship dis-ease. a person in pain might verbally or physically hit out at their loved ones,
Personal dis-ease: mental disharmony, can work itself out in bad attitudes and actions;
and even cause bodily bad health. A heart attack, for example..
Spiritual disease: how one relates to God can have a bearing on our relationships
with others, our feelings about ourselves, and physical ailments.
Remember the man on a stretcher whom Jesus forgave and healed:
“Your sins are forgiven.......take up your bed and walk.’
Social disease: how people treat us and how we treat them can affect faith, our bodies,
and our self image. Unforgiveness can bring on ulcers and in some cases cancer.
Some people with grievous physical affliction nevertheless seem to attain a wholeness of personality, maintain beautiful relationships, and have a buoyant faith in God. This makes me think that out of the four areas of disease, the physical may finally be the least important. (In saying this I do not treat lightly the agony of that some have to endure.)
Some people in wheelchairs make many of us seem like the really unhealthy ones.
Some whose bodies are being ravaged by disease are an inspiration to those around them.
I’ve had the privilege of sitting beside dying patients who have been in very good spirits.
Salvation, healing, must be about the whole person.
Our cultural obsession with physical health, with little emphasis on the spiritual, personal and social, is a long way from the healing that the New Testament celebrates. There are many “beautiful bodies” walking around without any corresponding beauty of mind or soul. Such people are on no way healthy; they do not have soteria.
THE CHURCH; A THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITY?
If the church is on about salvation, it should be a therapeutic community. As the body of Christ, healing should be present and flow out to others.
In church we turn from the dis-ease of being ego-centred towards the perfection and beauty and unconditional love of God.
In church we stop listening to the negativity and futility of the world around us and affirm our place in the Divine purpose.
In church we turn from the debilitating sense of failure and sin , to the healing forgiveness of Christ Jesus.
When we are feeling insignificant or useless, in church we are affirm again that we are children of God and joint heirs with Christ.
In times of joy we celebrate each others success, in times of sorrow as a church we share each others grief, and help put lives together again.
When we are physically ill, we support each other in prayer, ask for healing, and give whatever practical assistance we can. We seek the health of the whole person.
Should we become filled with resentment towards another, it is in church that we are asked to discharge the pain through being merciful, by praying even for our enemies.
From church we go out to serve others who are not of the faith. Barriers of race, sex, class, culture, skin colour, age do not exist for us.
RESCUE AND HEALING
The salvation of Jesus certainly includes what happens to us when we die, but its main focus is on the quality of life we live now. If we attain soteria health here and now, the future will hold no anxiety for us.
Jesus speaks to us today:
Stand up and get going;
your faith has made you whole.
SERMON 2: MAKE THE MOST OF IT
It’s not fair! It is easy to grumble when life deals us a mean hand.
It takes no skill at all, and certainly no courage, to whinge and belly-ache to whoever will listen. Feeling aggrieved, we can readily join the herd of those who become sour characters, head over heals in self pity.
On the other hand, we can be like Jeremiah .In spite of his times of frustration and persecution (and he did have a big belly-ache!) when the chips were down struck a positive chord in the darkest hours.
From his own exile in Egypt, where he was dagged there against his will, he sent a letter to the other Jewish exiles in the distant pagan city of Babylon. It went this way –
Thus says the Lord of hosts...... to all the exiles sent from Jerusalem into Babylon. ‘Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your d daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29: 4-8
Make the most of it, said Jeremiah. Don’t expect a quick fix. There will be no sudden rescue and quick return home. For the time being, transform your misfortune into a blessing for you and those who live in the city beside you.
Take no notice of the religious types who will offer you saccharine hope. Jeremiah had to counter false prophets; those who preached fake comfort. He did not trust them. Nor should you or I. They will tell you what you want to hear. Have none of their sentimental religion.
You and I are there for the long haul. Make the most of it, says Jeremiah. Get on with it. Marry and have kids, and encourage them to marry and have children. For your God says : Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
To make the most of it you must seek the welfare of those around you. Their happiness and yours are tied together.. Don’t become negative whingers, expecting others to have pity you. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Your God says, make the most of it.
WHAT IS GOD SAYING TO US?
Maybe that is exactly what our God is saying to us this Sunday: “There is no stress-free, painless discipleship waiting to fall into your lap. Make the most of what you have and are.”
Too many whingers are look for a change in external circumstances. Changed conditions will, they think, enable them to find the happiness they hanker for.
They are wrong. Except for those in situations of severe deprivation or abuse, that is not the answer. For most of us, a change will not necessarily improve your lot.
A shift into a new house, like the ones shown in “Home Beautiful,” will not guarantee your better welfare. Changing jobs is no sure remedy. Changing wife or husband may not do anything except confirm you in a self-pitying view that “nobody understands me.”
Don’t believe those who exploit our desire to dodge reality. In spite of what the lotto industry tells you in those alluring TV adds, there is no magic fix through wealth. While no person should be made to exist in grinding poverty, a fortune of money is no prescription for salvation. I have in mind that man who, a couple of years ago, was being interviewed on a current affairs programme. While reflecting on his life after winning the lotto, the miserable looking fellow commented with deep feeling, “I wish to God my numbers had never come up."
We must make the most of where we are, and what we have. And do our best for those who around us. For without their happiness, ours will always fall short of the mark. Of course we must look after ourselves, but that cannot be at the expense of others. In their well being is our well being.
“No man is an island.” (Thank you, John Donne, great poet that you were!) There can be no happiness for the “God fearing person” if they do not take to heart that second commandment of Christ Jesus, “Love your neighbour as yourself: Also his “new” commandment: “Love one another, even as I have loved you.”
Like the Jews exiled in Babylon, we are in this faith thing for the long haul. Full redemption will take time. Make the most of it, love one another, and we will find joys we did not realise existed within our present circumstances.
As I think through this simple, yet profound matter, the faces of certain people keep flashing on the screen of my mind.
(To protect their privacy, I will give them an alias)
I see Lorraine,
who as a young wife and mother during World War 2, had to flee Papua New Guinea as the Japanese invaded. She never saw her missionary husband again, for he was executed by the invaders. She grieved deeply but did not get bogged down in self pity. Lorraine brought up her family and gave herself with unstinted devotion to her God and service to the community throughout a very long and fruitful life.
Make the most of it? Seek the welfare of those around you? In their welfare will you find your welfare.
I see Rod,
who “drew the short straw” by being a poorly educated orphan, shy and timid, who grew up to do menial labour all his life. Rod never married. Never owned a car, nor his own home. Yet he never complained. He quietly went about doing good wherever he could in community and church. Rod in his relative poverty, gave more to those whom he saw in need than any other human being I have known.
I see Bev,
an outgoing, self giving person in her eighties. Recently she fell on some stairs, badly bruised face and lacerated parts of her body, and fractured her pelvis. Yet lying there in hospital, looking as if some villain had savagely bashed her, she was all smiles and thanksgiving. Thankful that within 20 minutes of the fall she was able to crawl to a telephone. Thankful for the kindness of the ambulance officers who rescued her. Thankful for the hospital and care of the nurses. Thankful for the physiotherapist who was making her do painful but needed exercise. Thankful she could still read, and would now have time to complete a cross-stitch cushion cover. Thankful that she was being served lovely meals (Yes really. Many people complain about hospital food. Not Bev!) Thankful that her family and friends were showing her so much love.
Make the most of it?
NOT PASSIVE TOLERATION OF WRONGS
I am not advocating that we should be passive, tolerating without protest the injustices inflicted on ourselves or on others.
We are not in the business of being either passive or negatively reactive. With God’s help we try to be pro-active. Like Jeremiah and the prophets of Israel, we should seek changes wherever possible. Christian love for our neighbours is more than mere justice, and can never less than justice.
Let me tell you about a man who has been an effective “mover and shaker.” He has had various spheres of service to the community. He is 5 talent friend whom I will call Paul. A man of considerable ability and resolute personal integrity. Paul has lived a busy and most fruitful life. What is more he has lived it well in spite of adverse circumstances.
He and his family were very excited when he took up a position as the head of a new university in another state. Within a few months his youngest son was killed in a road accident. Though grieving deeply, he completed the job he had started in that young university.
A few years later on, back in this state, his beloved wife died of cancer. Grief again. But Paul got on with living and serving. After a time of loneliness he found and married a very capable and lovely woman. Some years of deep happiness followed, then she contracted cancer and after a noble fight against it she died. Paul is again alone.
He came to see my wife and I recently. Speaking of his sorrow, yet of his profound gratitude for the enabling love they had shared, he reflected along these lines: “Maybe the good Lord said; ‘Now here is a lovely woman who will die relatively young. I will give her a husband who has been through the cancer trauma before, and he will be able to give her the support she will need.’ I am thankful I was able to be that husband.”
Paul has sorrowed much, but there is exists scant self-pity in Paul. He continues to lead a productive life, still able to move in what are called “high circles” and using his many abilities for the benefit of the community..
Make the most of it.
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare
I conclude with a prayer which has found its present popularity via AA meetings. You may know it as the ‘Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the courage to change the things I can change,
the serenity to accept those I cannot change,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Gratitude is a healthy reaction to grace.
Let us pray.
Holy Friend, words about you are no substitute for the real thing. We thank you for the special times of the spirit; for those brief moments of Divine light, when nothing separates us from you and we can experience a fragment of pure wonder and love.
We thank you for the simple triggers you choose for these moments of light:
A piece of music, a walk by the sea, a phrase in a prayer.
The song of a thrush, the eyes of a friend, a line in a hymn.
A ripple on still waters, a word of Scripture, the soft cheek of a baby.
A tiny bush orchid, a loved one’s hug, a parable from Jesus.
The midnight stars, an awakened memory, the sharing of bread and wine.
Recovering from an illness, a thought in a sermon, the scent of a flower.
A child’s baptism, the striking of a clock, the glimpse of a mountain peak.
We thank you that we cannot manufacture these times of awe; or predict them; that they are your serendipity gifts, free as grace, more precious than gold. Help us to treasure them, to measure them by what Christ taught us, and to use them as inspiration for the common love and service of ordinary days. To your endless praise and glory.
Only those who truly believe in faith, hope and love, will keep on praying for a world that lurches from one crisis to another.
Let us pray.
God of hope, give us more of the Spirit of Jesus and co-opt us into the ongoing work of your salvation.
Let us by word, deed and prayer, assist in some way, be it small or large, for the rescue and healing of your people on this planet.
Wherever there is spiritual confusion or despair; may the salvation of Christ come with its light and joy.
Wherever there is emotional sickness or mental disarray, may the salvation of Jesus still exert its ancient power.
Wherever people suffer from accident or disease, carry a handicap, or bear a tearing grief, may the salvation of Christ be intimately present.
Wherever there are injustices which crush body, mind and spirit, may the salvation of the Lord bring liberty to victims, and repentance to the oppressors.
Wherever there is bad blood between family members, neighbours, or old friends, may the salvation of Jesus deliver us and heal our sins and follies.
Wherever the church has failed to be a healing community, may your saving hands draw us away from dis-ease and recall us to that wholesome loving that bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
Holy God, you are our light and salvation. Hear our prayers, toughen our faith, and widen our compassion. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.
As you go on your way,
may you have the wisdom and will to help others
and the humility to allow others to help you.
Take courage to forgive and be forgiven,
to heal and be healed, to serve and be served.
With you always there will be
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.