Summary: A sermon about living a life of thanksgiving to God.
“Looking Good on Paper”
In one Peanuts comic strip Lucy, who is in love with the piano-playing Schroeder, is watching him play the piano—she’s looking at him all google-eyed.
Lucy asks Schroeder, “Do you know what love is?”
Schroeder stops the music and says, “Love is a strong bond or attachment toward another, a decision to act in their best interest.”
Then he goes back to playing the piano.
In the next box, Lucy looks at the audience and laments: “Gee, on paper Schroeder is just great!”
Is it possible for Christians to “look great on paper,” but for the reality to be a different story altogether?
A friend of mine once told me about the church he grew up in—in Norfolk, Virginia.
He said that, when he was a kid, that church had a membership of over 1,000 people.
But, he added, “Mostly all it did was Sunday stuff.”
It didn’t reach out to the community.
It was very inwardly focused, kind of like a country club.
Eventually, the church lost members and got to the point where it almost had to close the doors.
But, he said that turned out to be a good thing because the church is now more “alive” than it ever was.
It doesn’t have a membership of 1,000 people, but now they have feeding events for their community every week.
They are known in their neighborhood as a church which is filled with joy, racially diverse, friendly, open to all, non-judgmental, loving, and a place where people can find help.
My friend said: “That is what church is in my view.
That’s what it means to follow Jesus and be the Body of Christ.”
And I agree with him.
I can’t help reading our Gospel Lesson this morning without picturing just how happy and excited that one former leper was who came back to Jesus “praising God in a loud voice” for having been healed.
I mean, this guy really got it, didn’t he?
He was healed.
He knew the source.
And He high tailed it right back to Jesus.
He was so thankful that “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet.”
But where were the other nine?
Jesus had healed all ten lepers.
Why didn’t they all come running back to Jesus?
Weren’t they thankful?
Didn’t they now want to become followers of Jesus?
Didn’t they want to praise God and fall at Jesus’ feet as well?
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem.
He was traveling the barren landscape along the border of Samaria and Galilee.
And when He gets kinda close to a town--but still on the outskirts--these ten men with leprosy stand at a distance and call out to him: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
And Jesus does just that!
He has mercy on these poor, lost, marginalized outcastes of society.
I mean, it is nearly impossible to exaggerate just how isolated these ten guys were.
In Jesus’ day, people with leprosy were banned from their own homes.
They couldn’t have any contact with their spouses, children, parents, the faith community—you name it.
They were so feared that people thought they would risk getting infected if they even crossed their shadow.
They lived alone, and so they banded together with other lepers and became a small community of misery.
A small community of misery…
How many of these do we have in this world?
I don’t know how many folks I’ve spoken with over the years who grew up going to churches where they were absolutely terrified by the preacher.
They describe preachers condemning people in the pews, yelling, screaming and scaring people half-to-death.
Many people I speak with who no longer attend church—say they won’t go back because of childhood experiences like these—of having been involved in what sounds, in essence, like a community of misery.
But Jesus was a fun person to be around.
He ate, drank and made merry.
He told interesting and sometimes funny parables.
He didn’t judge.
He had compassion and mercy.
And the folks who He hung out with were from every walk of life.
Back in the 2000 Presidential Campaign, a number of people said the reason they voted for Bush over Gore was because Bush was the kind of guy they’d like to hang out and have a beer with.
People liked to be around Jesus, and it wasn’t because He was mean, judgmental or repressed.
It’s been said that the Church is made up of “the lepers who came back to worship and thank Jesus.”
Are you a leper?
Christianity shouldn’t be some oppressive, angry or solemn way of life.
Jesus came to set us free from all that!
To follow Christ is to have the joy and the peace which transcends all understanding.