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In a village on the borderland between Galilee and Samaria, Jesus encountered ten leprous men while on His journey to Jerusalem to face betrayal, trial, torture, and death (Luke 17:11-19).  The men raised their voices to Jesus from a distance, observing the social isolation and separation that their leprosy demanded, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Despite the nearness of His own suffering, which could have easily (and understandably) consumed all of His focus and concern, Jesus was moved with compassion and directed the men to go and show themselves to the priests.  According to the ritual requirements of the Law, a leper could be declared clean and free from the disease only after examination by a priest and the offering of sacrifices (Leviticus 14:1-32).

All ten of the lepers demonstrated great faith by following Jesus’ instructions, especially since their leprosy was still upon them as they began their journey.  Somewhere along the way, their disease was taken away by the power, grace, and mercy of the Lord.  One of the ten, only one, a Samaritan, turned back to find Jesus.  He glorified God with a loud voice, fell at Jesus’ feet, and gave thanks to Him for the gift of restored health.

We often use this story (and rightfully so) to illustrate our need to offer thanksgiving and praise to God and to caution against having a heart of ingratitude.  However, it is interesting to note that the other nine men still enjoyed the blessing of healing, despite their failure to return and thank the Lord.  The attitude of Jesus wasn’t, “I’ll heal you only if you promise to be grateful.”  He healed them because of who He was; loving, compassionate, and merciful.

Jesus instructs us to be merciful in the same way that our heavenly Father is merciful, loving our enemies and doing good, expecting nothing in return (even gratitude); “for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35-36).  “God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).  There are multitudes who enjoy the warmth of the sun and the sweetness of the rain who never acknowledge the divine Giver of those blessings; some of the them even overtly deny His existence.  Still, He blesses.

Acts of kindness to others are self-authenticating.  They need no justification.  They do not require anyone’s permission.  They are not dependent on the gratitude, or lack thereof, possessed by the recipients of the kindness. 

We do good for the sake of doing good and for the sake of the Savior in whose steps we follow.

 

(I shared the following thoughts before Communion in our worship assembly this morning.)

September 11, 2001, is a date that cannot be forgotten.  It was a tragically defining moment for our nation, and, in many ways, for the entire world.  Things have never been the same since.  Today, 10 years later, if you are traveling by air, the gauntlet of security that you have to pass through is directly related to that day.  Today, if you have a loved one serving in the military in Afghanistan or Iraq, they are on that foreign soil as a direct result of the events of that day.  The visual images and the emotional impact of what happened on 9/11 have been permanently etched into our consciousness.

It was a day of violence and bloodshed; an outbreak of evil resulting in untold suffering by the innocent; a day that caused people to ask questions like, “How could this be permitted by an all-powerful, all-loving God?” and “What good can ever come out of such a tragedy?”  But, it was also a day that unified our nation and galvanized our resolve.  Regardless of our various personal backgrounds, ethnicities, accents, and political ideologies, we were Americans, and we stood together that day. 

It is hard to imagine the impact of 9/11 diminishing with time, but it inevitably will; not to ever be entirely forgotten, but, in future decades, it will become increasingly more historical and cerebral in nature, and less personal and emotional, just as has been the case with December 7, 1941 (70 years ago; a defining event for my grandparents’ generation) and November 22, 1963 (a turning point for my parents’ generation).  To some of you, those dates are extremely meaningful and deeply personal, because you lived through those events.  To those of us who are younger, they are certainly identifiable and notable dates, but framed within the context of a distant, historical past. 

Not ten years ago, but about 1,980 years ago, there was another day of violence and bloodshed; an outbreak of evil that resulted in untold suffering by the truly Innocent One; a day that caused people, especially the closest followers of Jesus, to question, “How could this be permitted by an all-powerful and all-loving God?”  “What good can ever come out of this tragedy?”

But, the passing of nearly 2,000 years has not diminished the memory of that day in the least.  On the contrary, the number of those who memorialize the death that took place at Golgotha has never decreased, but has multiplied exponentially with every passing year.  The passage of two millennia has not caused the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world to pass into obscurity, but has only resulted in increased reflection, meditation, understanding, and clarity through the centuries; an event that is relived, reenacted, and celebrated every single Lord’s Day in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine.

This is a memorial meal that unifies us, regardless of our personal backgrounds, ethnicities, accents, and political ideologies.  We are Christians.  The blood that flowed from Jesus that day, the sacrifice that cleanses us from all sin, has made us one.

This we do today, because we remember.  This we do today, because the world has never been the same.

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