Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sunday 13 October 2013, Trinity 20, 1 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15, Luke 17:11-19, Bruce

a.        We are going to examine two characters today.  Together they give us clues about the meaning of life and help us answer a key question:
2.       How can I be a true worshipper?
a.        We operate with the Purpose Statement “To Encounter God and Grow in Him.
b.       Many of us may find ourselves questioning how real our experience of God can be.
c.        How helpful are buildings, songs, forms of worship?  How do they connect with real life?
d.       As we look at the lives of Naaman and the ten lepers, we discover that:
3.       It all starts with desperate need.
a.        Naaman was a powerful, favoured warrior, in the kingdom of Aram (today’s Syria), but his life was in tatters.
b.       A skin disease that was then feared and incurable put you on the edge.  You could not take part in regular society and life.
c.        The ten lepers would have been forced to leave family and friends and live in the wilderness, on the edge of society. 
d.       They may have been a disparate bunch of Jews and Samaritans, people who would normally have stayed clear of each other, but who had banded together for mutual support and protection.
e.       Although this may not have been exact condition that text books defined as leprosy today, their disease made them the most pitiable of outcasts.  They were truly desperate.
4.       Our need is met by God’s mercy.
a.        The servant girl belonging to Naaman’s wife tells of a God who can save.
b.       The king of Syria assumes that the channel will be through the king of Israel.
c.        Elisha announces that there is indeed a prophet in Israel.
d.       The ten lepers meet Jesus!
e.       He was walking along the border between Samaria and Galilee: he meets people on the edge.  Are we sometimes too comfortable?
f.         The lepers do the right thing: they stand at a distance.
g.        They cry out to Jesus for mercy, for favour, eleison.
h.       Jesus tells them to obey the Old Testament Law and show themselves to the priests, so that they can be declared clean.
i.         All ten of them did what they were told.  I wonder what they were thinking?
5.       Our response
a.        At different times we may each respond in different ways to God’s love.
b.       Naaman is perhaps obedient and hopeful as he travels to Israel in search of cleansing.
                                                               i.      His first thought is that God’s cleansing will come to him in a way that matches up to his high opinion of himself.  It will be the king of Israel that God uses, or he will be commanded to undertake some valiant quest.
                                                              ii.      The reality of encountering God seems to be a bit beneath him, and his first response is to go off in a huff.
                                                            iii.      He seems to have been a lovable man, though, because he has servants who plead with him, and he submits.  He baptises himself the required seven times in the river Jordan, and emerges – cleansed!
                                                            iv.      His response is to declare that Jahweh is the true God, and later in the chapter we discover that he has become a worshipper.
c.        All ten lepers set off to find a priest, in obedience to Jesus’ command.  On the way they discover that they have been cleansed.
                                                               i.      One, and only one, of them turns back.  In doing this he seems to be disobeying!
                                                              ii.      He throws himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks him – he eucharizes him.
                                                            iii.      Jesus notices that this is a Samaritan, a foreigner (like Naaman was), one on the edge.
                                                            iv.      The fact that he thanks Jesus for God’s cleansing seems to put the seal on it.  “Rise and go, your faith has saved you.”  A thankful heart is what unites us with God – it makes us into true worshippers.
d.       We hear no more about the other nine, except that Jesus wonders about them.
                                                               i.      They have been separated from wives, children, and parents.  In their joy and delight, have they very understandably forgotten everything else, grabbed their certificates and gone home?
                                                              ii.      They presumable went to the temple to worship, but Jesus obviously feels they should have come to him.
                                                            iii.      There are so many benefits to being a part of the church community.  We get friendship and support, we receive teaching and guidance, we can experience delight at the beauty of a building or a piece of music.
                                                            iv.      All of this is good, but can leave us missing out the most vital thing, to truly have a heart’s encounter with God.
e.       What see in both Naaman and the unnamed but thankful Samaritan leper is a heart that has been deeply touched.  They have truly and encountered God, and they have been changed.
f.         In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light.  To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him.
g.        Naaman immersed himself in the Jordan, and that was a symbol of him being immersed in God’s love and cleansing power.
h.       The cleansed leper immersed himself in a river of thankfulness for the new start in life that Jesus was giving him.
i.         We are called to immerse ourselves in God’s grace and mercy.                               
                                                               i.      Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
j.         All           It is right to give thanks and praise.
k.        Today we rejoice with Catherine as she is immersed in God’s love during this baptism service, and together we join in a thanksgiving, a eucharist, we share in a public act of sharing in God’s presence through the symbols of broken bread and shared wine.

Discussion Starters
1.       How much do you know about leprosy and how affected people were treated in ancient times?
2.       A quote from New Wine this year:  “When we hear of miracles in overseas countries, I do not think that they have more faith than us, but that they are more desperate than us in prayer.”  What do you think of this?
3.       If asked to define what worship is, how would you answer?  What examples would you give?
4.       What do you think about the place of foreigners or those “on the edge” in these stories?  How would you answer the opinion that we are sometimes too comfortable with the familiar and safe inside our church buildings?

5.       Have you any specific suggestions about things that hinder your worship that we could see about changing?  Or are there any things that we could do more of as they are a blessing to you?

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