A Passing Grade
Jeremiah 29: 1, 4-7
Luke 17: 11-19
October 9, 2022
I think most of us by the time we are in our early Twenties realize that we cannot predict nor control the future. The hours that await us around the corners of life are simply subject to a wide assortment of varying influencers that can be as simple as the weather or as complex as nations on the other side of the world deciding to conspire with our enemies to cause our supply of gasoline to diminish with the directly related rise in prices. Neither I nor you can accurately predict the actions of others that can impact decisions we have to make or lead us to alter well thought out plans.
We live in our limited moments of life. We can focus on the future but to get there we have to live our moments in the right way.
One of the other truths of life is that we cannot change our past. If earlier today you prepared bacon along with an egg and toast for your breakfast you are not able to magically change this morning’s long gone breakfast … right now … to sausage and egg … you can’t. Of course you can go have have a sausage now but you already had the bacon, egg, and toast and whether you liked that meal or not it was your decision and the impact is there. The time is past and life moves forward.
I was reminded, as I started this day more focused on the major tweak life threw my family this week when I watched my beautiful daughter lying in the ER bed knowing she was about to be admitted to the unknown adventure of a hospital, I was reminded of our relationship with God and God’s call to us in life. I am sure most of you receive reminders of your relationship with God or your need of a relationship with God from time to time. Of, God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ … the need to have God rescue us from dilemma’s and challenges.
My reminder today came to in a daily devotional called ‘God’s Minute’ that is actually emailed to two of my email addresses each day … my way of choosing not to ignore this valuable short daily call to wake up in God’s presence and then to sense God’s directives as the seconds morph into minutes and then into hours and then become the path of Dave Delaney history … good or bad that is left in the wake.
The alert on both my phone and my I-Pad merely showed the lead off verse from todays devotion and it was Jesus’ message to people of faith and it applies today as I urge each of us to consider whether we would get a passing grade for how we choose to live our lives for God. As believers, we know that we should be placing God … God’s mission … God’s way of living above all else … no false gods … no bowing down to people … after all, God is God … right? You believe that. Not a Sunday morning only focal point to meet with friends but the Creator of the universe. You remember the lessons throughout our Bible … LOVE GOD … LOVE ALL YOUR NEIGHBORS that’s what Jesus said all of the laws, rules, regulations, commandments, and priorities that God has for us fall on those two simple principles. That’s what was written down in the TORAH and the prophets. Successfully doing those two produce a passing grade in God’s eyes … in God’s judgment.
So, here’s what I read today from Jesus: THERE IS NOTHING THAT ENTERS A MAN FROM OUTSIDE WHICH CAN DEFILE HIM; BUT THE THINGS WHICH COME OUT OF HIM, THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT DEFILE
A couple of you know that in yesterday’s early morning hours as I drove from the hospital where Megan was waiting for a room with Donna … alone in the car headed to our home … I had some strong and heated and out loud words with or rather for God. The questions of why once again the most faith-filled and loving of all people I know, this wonderful woman, my daughter, had one more thing added to her plate. One more fear-inspiring event … at least for Megan’s parents … frustrating … a visually disturbing mysterious health issue. I spewed out anger … as Scriptures would define it, I lamented towards God. All of my outside influencers allowed frustration to be directed in one direction … and one direction only … at God. I wasn’t even lifting up a healing prayer … I was pouring out venom from inside me … an awful lot and thankfully only my car’s dashboard and God could hear. I am sure God knew where I was coming from even though God didn’t deserve those words from my lips.
But when I arrived at home there was the dog on one couch and the cat on the other. Peacefully awaiting the arrival of one of their humans … looking up at me with pure love as I opened the door; the kind of love that Megan pours out every time she meets a new person or sees any human being … peace and harmony … a reminder in the moment that I can only control what I can control not any other realities. I then walked Tyler out into the darkness thankful for the small wooded area next to the house because as we walked I looked at the moon, the sky, and I heard the quiet rustle of the trees and as I breathed in nature … it was a verification … a touch of God … like every person who walked before me and for those who will walk after me … in the flash of the moment I again understood that life goes on and “there is nothing that enters me from the world that can define me unless I let them do that” … and that with God’s Holy Spirit I can battle to make sure nothing from he world defiles me! I am in control of what comes out of me and how I choose to live my life.
None of you, no one driving by our church, not even the neighbor with the hate-laced despicable signs … no one should be controlling my life and friends no one should be controlling your life because Christ made it absolutely clear in that wake up verse from the seventh chapter of Mark’s Gospel that we cannot blame others for what comes out from each of us in our lives … our lives can either showcase faith in God or we can defile God by aligning with the world. God should be our choice for living life.
DO YOU GET A PASSING GRADE on God’s report card? Have you committed yourself to following God’s directions and Jesus’ teachings? Do you open up God’s Word to learn more and to enhance what you have already been taught? Do you have that mysterious joy and peace that exceeds human understanding and even surprises you at times?
One of the true joys I can pass along from this pulpit to you is the reality of God’s love and readiness to forgive us for the moments when we have allowed the world to slip into the driver’s seat. Now, some might say God forgives everyone all the time and that there is no need for change, no need to plead the case … no need to regret because after all we are HUMAN SUPERPOWERS whose self-focused rules should always take precedence over anything that God teaches in the Scriptures … maybe that’s why fewer and fewer people are choosing to attend Bible studies in all churches in America … maybe that’s why parents don’t want their children in Sunday School because if their kids discover that God expects us to love all of our neighbors, welcome strangers, care for the poor, and do justice it might go against the parents’ lifestyles and political fervor.
It’s nothing new … Luke’s historical report of Jesus action along the border of Galilee and Samaria that you once again heard this morning showcases that human nature has not changed from Jesus times until the 21st century. In fact, it’s pretty clear that there is an inherent human temptation to always self-focus rather than align with God but aligning with God is what offers eternal life … and peace and joy in this life.
Salvation is not a momentary event but it is a lifestyle change … In our prayer today we clearly tell God we want to be forgiven by God as we forgive others so that is always an interesting perspective to consider if you are one who holds grudges, speaks poorly of those whom you think have done you wrong along life’s paths, or if you know you are always right and THEY are always wrong. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those …
Well God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins … that’s what we believe and that’s what God has promised. Even the thief on the cross next to Jesus was promised eternal life with God and Christ and the saints even though he admitted that he deserved to die by the cross yet through his faith and confession and asking for forgiveness Jesus told him he’d be in heaven that day.
So, our past is taken care of if …. IF WE UNDERSTAND our faith responsibilities.
Those ten men were suffering along the roadway … those ten men were sick …. Those ten men recognized Jesus and pleaded “JESUS, MASTER … SHOW US MERCY!” Jesus’ love for all … applied to these ten whom He had never met. Jesus showed them how to be healed … Jesus demonstrated God’s love for them … they were healed of their disease and pain and suffering but only one knew that in his recovery that something more was needed.
In today’s lesson friends, we are shown an example that many people noddingly indicate that they think Jesus is more than a story … that God is not just a three letter word … they come to church on Christmas Eve … they come to church on Easter … maybe another day here or there … they used to come to church until their priorities mattered more than worshiping God … they want their kids to have scholarships not salvation nor God’s lessons that could change them. They want God’s healing but they don’t want to pass the test of faith … they don’t want to live as believers.
The one man … the Samaritan whom the people of Israel treated like some in our nation treat people who come to this country seeking hope and a new life … Samaritans were despised chastised … they were in political campaigns … anyone who cared for a Samaritan should never have a position of influence except Jesus of course … Jesus applied the rule of loving all to all … God does not create borders and God does not expect people of faith to establish borders and so who was the only individual of the ten who had faith? Who was the only one of the ten who truly knew Jesus was worth more than a wink and a nod?
THE SAMARITAN … THE SAMARITAN passed the test … received the passing grade and Jesus said “GET UP and GO … YOUR FAITH HAS HEALED YOU!”
Friends … do you need to reestablish your faith so that you can get the passing grade from God and receive the healing of eternal salvation.
The other night a group of young men all wearing Pentecost caps looked like they were lost … some gave up hope but those young men in Pentecost caps focused in on what mattered … they overcame diversity and then last night they continued to move forward to victory still not knowing what awaits them in the days to come.
So, as you move forward from this church or from wherever you are watching our service … are you ready to focus in on the victory we can have in Jesus? Are you taking in God’s teaching … searching for opportunities to grow your faith? Are you living each day loving God and loving all your neighbors rejecting the world to insure the world does not cause you to defile God?
The foreigner returned to praise God … one out of ten. The unexpected one …
Is today the day you begin to focus on God’s teaching and take on all challenges to insure that when the finals come you get a passing grade into heaven rather than a report card that says you claimed to believe but never did and instead belong to the place where all who defile God and worship the world belong?
Your choice … your life … your moments … Jesus is there for all of us and the Holy Spirit is ready to guide us … you can always go with the sign guy but I choose Jesus and pray you do too! AMEN