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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

01052014 Epiphany (Observed)

Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray, Gracious Father, You give us food to eat, homes to live in, jobs to labor at and even Your own Son Jesus Christ.  Enable us to thank You and give Your praise for these gifts including Your Son’s precious Body and Blood around the altar this morning.  For all of this is from Your bounty for all of mankind, including all of the saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

When Jesus on the road to Jerusalem between Samaria and Galilee had encountered the ten leprous men, He felt nothing but compassion for their plight.  Segregated from society, outcast because of their skin disease and destined to never feel the love of any of their family and friends ever again because of the sickness of their skin, these ten men had nothing to loose.  Like our society today when we go to Wal-Mart and see people in dirty clothes, unkept hair, smelling from not taking a shower we like the society of Jesus day turn our collective heads and noses and do not want to be around them because we are afraid they will ‘rub off on us.’  When they come to church we move away from them and even some of us look down our noses, even when people who have attended for years get to close for our comfort.

But Jesus saw past the lepers skin ailment, saw past their low estate in the socio-economic strata of their time and had compassion.  What did Jesus do, but simply tell the men to “Go show yourselves to the priests”.  While they were on their way, they were healed.  Instantly they had gone from being outcast and ostracized from society, their families and even the temple to now being able to transact business, reenter the city gates without hecklers and jeers from the crowd and enter the temple without scornful looks of derision.  These ten men would be like anybody else walking the streets of Jerusalem.

Then one of the ten men, turned back after realizing the life change he had been given as a gift by this Man, Jesus Christ.  This former leper began to glorify God and give thanks for what he had received.  It was not just healing, but his very life returned to him and now a future without the sickness that had previously separated him and made him an outcast.  In a clear sense this one man not only gave thanks for the gift he had received, but gave glory and returned thanks to God for this clear gift of healing.

This morning in our review of the Catechism we are here to learn about ‘returning thanks’ after a meal.  We remember that after we have a meal, whether, breakfast, lunch or dinner we also have the opportunity like the leper to return thanks.  When we eat whether at home, a restaurant or even in fellowship downstairs here at church we have the opportunity to return thanks for the meal we have just received.  For some families this is part of their ritual at meal time to return thanks for the meal that was prepared and just consumed.  For me while at seminary and on retreat before our school year began, we would not only offer a blessing before the meal, but we would also ‘return thanks’ to God after the meal, bringing full circle our experience and gifts provided by God.

Yet, our society and even our church is to fast paced sometimes to do this simple gesture of returning thanks.  Our claim is that why should we give thanks we have to pay the bill if we are eating at Crazy R’s, go to Confirmation Class, get back on the road if we are travelling and had just stopped for a quick bite.  We have to get back to our work, whether it is planting corn, wheat or milo in the spring, checking wells during the summer to insure we have a crop to harvest, harvesting winter wheat, before a storm blows up, getting back on the time clock at work or back to the task of checking cows, putting up fence or moving cows.  In a real sense we are no different than the nine lepers who did not turn back and give thanks to Jesus for healing them.  We put our own self-interest first and turn a blind eye to God Who blessed us in the first place.

Today we celebrate not only the first Sunday in 2014, but for some we have begun trying to ‘keep our New Year’s resolutions’.  Our resolutions range from losing weight to treating our boss, spouse or kids better to making a lifestyle change like not drinking as much diet soda, stop smoking or even spending more time with our family and not so much with our job.  But the reality is we have to have some action in order for us to make a change in our lives.  In the same way the one man who was healed and turned back to give God praise and thanks had clear action.  He took the concrete step to thank Jesus for giving his life back.  We as well are called to do this in our own lives as well, in essence returning thanks.

You probably wonder why I have a simple bell here up front if we are talking about ‘returning thanks’ after eating a meal.  Simply this bell is a metaphor of what we have the opportunity to do in our lives.  Given to Michele, Sarah and myself many years ago by my parents the bell symbolizes for me how we can give thanks.  If we were to get in our car and drive to Colby or Burlington, there is something there that we do not have here in Goodland.  For some of us, it is simply a fast food restaurant, but for others it is a bit of nostalgia and good food that people’s mouths become watered over just thinking about.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about “Arby’s”.  When you enter the restaurant and order a roast beef sandwich or mozzarella sticks, curly fries or any of their sandwiches the service you receive is usually given with a smile and great courtesy. 

After eating the meal, which usually always has horseradish sauce for Michele or ‘Arby’s Sauce’ for myself, Sarah get’s to do something very special.  It may not seem like much, but for her it is the highlight of the trip before we head home or get back on the road to Colorado Springs if we are in Limon.  It isn’t a toy or even to play on the playground outside, Sarah gets to be lifted up and grab a piece of rope and ‘ring the bell’.  The bell symbolizes for the staff at Arby’s that their service was appreciated and gives the customer the opportunity to return thanks.  Sarah gets involved in the action of thanking the staff for the great time she has had at their restaurant and for their kind and courteous service to her.

In the same way today we like the one leper and Sarah can turn and ‘return thanks’.  How are you going to return thanks for God’s gift to you today?  How will you thank God for the gift of His Son given on Calvary and offered for us around the altar this morning?  We do this not to earn anything, for we cannot and do not earn salvation, but we like the leper can return thanks for the gifts offered for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  So will you ‘ring the bell’ today?  AMEN.
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