Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Filled With Purpose

Filled With Purpose

Last week we started talking about the Corinthian church and we got a general picture of how that church came together.
 
            When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he was absolutely convinced that the second coming of Christ would happen in his lifetime. That one belief is huge. Whatever else the second coming of Christ may mean to anybody else in all the world in any age, it meant something special to Paul. He had met spiritual the risen Christ on the road to Damascus—in a blinding flash of light and Jesus wanted to know why Paul was persecuting Christians. It turned his life around. Paul honestly believed that in his lifetime he would have the chance to meet the living Lord in the flesh here on earth, face-to-face - and Paul believed he would be accountable for the way he had lived his life. That one conviction, that he would meet the Lord and would want to be accountable, gave his life extraordinary passion and purpose. It explains the zeal he had in spreading the gospel. 
 
            As time went on, Paul’s spirit began to get weary. Doors kept closing in his face, but he realized the purpose of Christ was pressing on; sticking with his mission, and then he began to change his fundamental assumption. He changed his belief to be, “Christ is going to come again. It may not happen in my lifetime but I know it will happen because of all the things that Christ is accomplishing in us and through us. That sacred purpose is moving toward an end, toward a completion, and Paul says to us: “I know that the good work that began in you will therefore one day be completed and will find its fullness when Christ comes.” 
 
      It was an incredible shift in his thinking but very profound. He knew the purpose of God was not confined to the purpose of his life; that his life was part of a purpose that was greater than his life. He was only playing a small part in it, but he knew that purpose was moving in the direction God desired.
 
            So, today,I am sure that the God who began a good work in you and in us will bring it to where God wants it. We also hear from Paul that purpose we are involved in is bigger than us, but we are playing an important part of that greater purpose.
 
           One of the wonderful parts of ministering to you is to see the maturity of your faith. I don’t have to try to convert anybody to the faith. You have lived it and are living it. You bring your faith here, not to be talked out of it or talked into anything else, but just to celebrate the faith that you have lived.
        Like Paul writes to the congregation at Corinth, I know that the future God has prepared for you.
As we begin a new year, another congregational meeting, we are on the threshold of an extraordinary adventure, but we have no idea what that adventure will be. 
  But Paul reminds us we can be confident that the purpose God is accomplishing through us will not fail; as long as we stay true to the Word of God.  
             
         Our passage from Corinthians reminded us that we are each one of a kind. There is no one else out there like me; or anyone else exactly like you. Each one of us is different. What gift we can give each other is the permission to be ourselves and to each do what God leads us to do in respect to the work of this church and the purpose God is guiding us toward. And it is is in that work, each doing what we can, working together, we can celebrate our life as the Sweetwater congregation.
             So I say one more time, in the words of Paul, “I am sure that he who began a good work in us will bring it to completion in the day of Christ,”’

Amen!

The Corinthian Church

THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH

Today we are going to talk about the church in Corinth. This was a church established by the Apostle Paul - a church made up of regular people; and a church that began to have some problems. In the two Letters to the Corinthians we find in the New Testament, Paul is addressing the problems in that particular church - and in doing so gives us some great insight that help us better live and work as the church of Jesus Christ. Not that we are having any problems but it still helps us to hear these wise words of Paul as we continue to grow as the church God intends us to be.
Next week we are going to look at the specific issues regarding the Corinthian church, but this morning we will learn some background and learn some information regarding the church in Corinth and how it came to be - and how it began to have its problems.
We start with the Apostle Paul because reminding ourselves of what he was doing will help us get a perspective. Paul was called by God to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. He was not a disciple of Jesus, but he was a Jew - a very well educated Jew and had a thorough knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures - or what we refer to as the Old Testament. After his death and resurrection, Jesus came to his disciples and told them their job was to take his message to the whole world. And they had been pretty slow in doing that. Paul was actually the first person who actually began to go outside of Jerusalem and evangelize on any scale. He was later followed by some of the other disciples, but it was actually Paul who began to spread the message. He takes off on several trips to share the word of Jesus - referred to as missionary journeys in the book of Acts.
On these missionary journeys, Paul would go into different cities and even though God had specifically charged Paul with preaching to non-Jews, Paul would always go to the synagogues first and preach the message to his own people. Paul loved the Jews and he really wanted them to come to know Jesus just as he did, but almost always, Paul was rejected by his own people so Paul would leave the synagogues and go preach to the Gentiles in that city - like he was suppose to!
Those who heard and believed the message of Jesus would come together and form a ‘church’. Remember that ‘church’ is not a place, but a group of people. We are a church not because we are in this place, but because we are a group of individuals called together to worship and serve Christ. The ‘churches’ in Paul’s day would meet in homes. So Paul would help these groups of people, these ‘churches’, get established. He would make sure that they knew what to believe and how to work and serve and worship as God directed. And when he felt like they ‘got it’, he would move on to another city and begin again. So dotted all over the regions we would recognize today as Greece and Turkey were churches founded by the Apostle Paul and all of the books of the New Testament from Romans through Hebrews are actually letters Paul writes to these churches he founded addressing different issues that occurred in these churches. Because these churches may have been filled with God’s people, they were still people and we all know that people, as good as they may be, don’t always get along.
On Paul’s second missionary journey, he had been divinely directed to Philippi - one of the things we learn about Paul is that is was very astute at hearing the direction of God. We read more than once that he had it in his mind to go one direction, and God would stop him and send him somewhere else - and Paul would go. That happened with Philippi where Paul founded a church which actually became the church he called his favorite! From Philippi Paul goes to Thessalonica - the letters to the Thessalonians were later written to them - then on to Berea. Next Paul traveled to Athens where trying to start a church there was an utter failure, so he heads off to Corinth.
Corinth is about 50 miles to the east of Athens. It is a relatively new city - the old city had been totally destroyed. But because of its prime location with 2 ports the city grew back quickly and became one of the major trade centers of this area. There was a population of 400,000 which was a huge city in this time period. Because of this major crossroads, there were a myriad of different people from all over the world, who brought with them their own cultures and customs and religions. The largest temple in Corinth was the temple to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Beyond our comprehension, if you were part of the cult of Aphrodite,


worship consisted of cohabitation with the temple women. Corinth also was full of other forms of just as immoral temple cults. It was full of bars. It was the ‘sin’ city of the Mediterranean area. The phrase “to live like a Corinthian’ was to live an immoral, hedonistic lifestyle. Something I want you think about - the new converts to the Corinthian church are people who were living this Corinthian lifestyle all their life; it was all they knew. So how difficult would it be to give this life up when it is all you have ever done - and especially when you still lived in the midst of it?
When Paul arrives in Corinth he was out of money so he set up his tent making business. Many of Paul’s journeys were funded by donations from churches, but often as he traveled he was out of touch with his previous churches for quite a while and the money would run out so Paul would support himself by making tents. While he was tent making in Corinth he ran into a couple - Jewish refugees from Rome - Aquila and Priscilla. They were tentmakers just like Paul and would become great helpers in Paul’s ministry. But because Paul was working at his tent trade, his preaching time was limited. Every Sabbath he would go to the synagogue and seek to persuade those attending to trust Jesus as their Messiah. After a while, Silas and Timothy show up in Corinth with a donation from the Philippian church - so Paul put away his tents for a while and began to devote all his time to preaching the Gospel.
Opposition to Paul’s preaching seems to have increased the more Paul preached. The Jewish leaders were becoming quite concerned at the number of Jews who were coming to the faith in Jeus. The synagogue leaders finally succeed at removing Paul from the synagogue but he is able to move next door to the house of Titus Justus - a Gentile who believed in God and who has come to the faith of Jesus. A the home of Titus there was now a substantial congregation of Jews, Gentiles who had previously believed in God and brand new Gentile converts.
The persecution of this new congregation in Corinth became so intense that Paul considered leaving Corinth to save his life. However God came to Paul and gave him direct ‘orders’ to stay in Corinth and continue helping that growing congregation. Tension got so bad that the congregation was taken to court as the judge was asked to determine this new ‘faith’ as being a cult and being illegal. Paul was specifically named in the lawsuit since he was the leader of this new group. The judge determined this to be a frivolous law suit and since the suit was unsuccessful, Paul and this new Corinthian congregation were now ‘legal’ and able to continue to grow as he church of Jesus Christ. The other side affect of this ruling was that now Paul, as a Roman citizen, was cleared to preach Jesus’ word all through the Roman Empire.
Paul remained with the Corinthian church for 18 months. He left Corinth and went to Ephesus where he stayed a short time. He began to travel again spreading the gospel throughout this area of Turkey and eventually ended up back again in Ephesus where he stayed for 3 years. It was during this second stay in Ephesus that Paul writes the letters to the Corinthians.
While in Ephesus, Paul receives word of the problems going on in the Corinthian church which are quite extensive and quite serious. He fires off a letter to them that we do not have. It was called Paul’s angry letter and was so harsh that later on Paul apologizes to the Corinthians for the content of this letter - so it must have been pretty bad! After Paul calms down, he then writes the 1st letter to the Corinthians which we do have in our New Testament which addresses the issues in the church in a much more pastoral way.
However Paul is still very angry about the issues in the church. He tells the Corinthians that he is going to send Timothy to help them - Paul was a little afraid to go himself - in fact he says the
equivalent of “You don’t want me coming down there….” and promises that he will come later on once the Corinthians have had an opportunity to correct their issues and Paul is a little calmer.
We look at this church to understand that church problems are nothing new - church problems have existed since the beginning of the church. But we also are to remember that God does have certain expectations of his church and what he wants his church to be in our communities. By looking at this church of Corinth, we get a better picture of the desire God has for us as we work and worship together as the church of Jesus Christ in Hickory. Amen!

The Star of David

The Star of David

When we think about the Star of David, the first image or the first idea that comes to mind is the symbol for the Jewish people or the Jewish nation of Israel. We see the Israeli flag and prominent in the middle is the star of David. Interestingly enough, no one really knows why this particular star is used as a symbol for God’s people and it didn’t become the ‘official’ symbol for the Jewish people until way into the 1800s, but today the Star of David is used much as we in the Christian faith use our crosses - the Star of David stands as a way to recognize those who belong to the Jewish faith or members of the nation of Israel.
What is important for us is not so much the star itself but that the star directs us to the idea of a King. We sing in many of our Christmas Carols phrases like “Glory to the newborn king!” When we think about Advent and think about the coming baby, we are to think about the fact that this newborn baby is going to become a king - our King.
But at Christmas time as we picture the baby in a manger, the baby Jesus doesn’t look much like a king. What the Bethlehem shepherd saw when they visited the manger was a ‘baby wrapped in swaddling clothes’. The wise man had the same encounter. They were looking for the King of the Jews - wonder what they thought when they left the palace in Jerusalem to find the king and ended up in the small town of Bethlehem only to find a small boy in a humble home - Surely the wise man thought as they look at the young boy Jesus - “Is THIS the King of the Jews?” - the same question Pontius Pilate would ask three decades later when he stood with Jesus - “Are YOU the King of the Jews”?
In the book of Numbers in the Old Testament there is a prophecy that the coming Messiah was a ‘star arising out of Jacob’ which turns out to be a small little shepherd boy, the eight son of a man named Jesse in a little town called Bethlehem. The prophet Samuel came to Jesse and said, “God has sent me because he told me one of your sons is going to be the next king of Israel so let me interview your sons and God will point out to me which one has been chosen.” So Jesse rounds up his sons and Samuel looks at each one and God doesn’t indicate any of them to be the next King. Samuel says to Jesse, “Are these all your sons?” And Jesse says “Oh, yes, there is another one, David. I almost forgot about him.” This over-looked little shepherd boy, the eighth so forgotten about by his father, was about to be anointed the next King of Israel, the little shepherd boy who would defeat the giant Goliath, who would become the beloved King and the King who in God’s own words - “the King closest to my own heart”. This boy whom his father had forgotten about became the most famous and beloved king in the history of God’s people - the one today whose star reminds us of the promises God made to David - “there will always be a descendent of David on the throne” - a promise that points to the baby in Bethlehem who will become the King - our King - who sits on the throne on the right hand of the Father.
Because the prophecy stated the Messiah must come from the line of David, the Messiah had to be a descendent of David, both the gospel writers Matthew and Luke take time in their accounts of the life of Jesus to list the genealogy of Jesus and of course prominent in those lists of Jesus’ ancestors is the name of David.
We have insignificant little David whom his father forgot, who grew up in what the Bible calls an insignificant little town. Bethlehem was just a small village - the prophet Micah says: “
But you, Bethlehem ,though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
God said, “My son, the Messiah, will come from this forgotten little shepherd boy who is from the smallest little forgotten town…..
But that is so like how God does things. So often God’s choices follow the pattern of David and


Bethlehem. God’s promises come from things that are unexpected. Who would have conceived the savior of the world would be born in a manger or that the means of salvation would be death on a cross - a cross that remember had the sign over it that said “King of the Jews” - Pilate meant it as a sarcastic way to get back at the Jewish leaders - Pilate’s way of saying, “Here’s the kind of king you have…… nailed to a cross” but we know that God recognized this dying man as the one who would reign over his Kingdom forever and ever.
Did you ever notice the stories Jesus told were always about ordinary people doing ordinary things - a woman sweeping her house, a farmer planting a field, a woman baking bread, a traveler going down the road, a fisherman hauling in a net…
We don’t have a God who likes big and grand and super - we have a God who likes small and insignificant and ordinary. It is been said that the star of David was chosen as the star of the people of God because of its simplicity. And throughout the stories of the Bible we see simple, ordinary people who accomplish great things for God - Shepherds and fishermen…. the two lowliest professions of the day… tax collectors the most hated profession in all of Israel..… to point to the Messiah and change the world. Unexpected, small, ordinary, despised. This is how God works.
“Look at the stars” we are told by David as he writes in his Psalms. Psalm 8:3-6 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.
What David is point out that compared to the glory and the vastness of the night sky, we are pretty insignificant…. But to God we are crowned with glory and honor. That is how you are to think of yourself. Ordinary and insignificant we may see ourselves, but not to God who sees you as a person with power in the kingdom of God
Go out and look at the night sky and what do you see? Tiny little dots of light in the sky and on first glance they don’t see like much - just tiny little dots. But we know that these little points of light are suns - just like our sun. And what happens when we get closer and closer to a sun - we realize the hugeness of the sun and the power held in that sun - the power enough to heat our earth 93 million miles away - to hold our earth in its orbit - to make life on our planet possible.
What appears to be just a tiny little point of light in the sky is a great and powerful sun….. Those who appear to be just insignificant, ordinary people, places that are small and out of the way produce great Kings… People like us in the eyes of God are given places of honor!
Look at us. We are just ordinary people - and we are the ones God chose to be citizens in the Kingdom of God; we are the ones God chose to continue God’s work in the world today; we are the ones who gather around the manger at Christmas and worship the newborn King.
We are the ones who are stars in the eyes of God.

Amen!

The 9th Commandment

The Ninth Commandment

I sat down and began to work on this commandment and quickly realized there were so many different aspects to this commandment we could just spend the next 15 minutes listing everything this commandment is trying to teach us. It was really hard to narrow down which of these nuances was most important.
Let’s start with the what is the most common violation in our society today of this commandment. And that is the idea of gossip - gossip appears in every one of what are known as ‘sin lists’ throughout the letters which make up a good portion of the last half of the New Testament. It is sometimes called gossip, but other times is listed as slander or ‘speaking ill of your neighbor’. Gossip is one of those easy traps to fall into - you are in a crowd of people and someone says “Did you know that so and so……” and your natural instinct of curiosity kicks in and you convince yourself that it is OK to listen cause you aren’t really doing the gossiping and you aren’t going to tell anyone else… At least that is your intention until you run into another mutual friend and “Did you know that so and so….” just slips out. And before long everyone knows that so and so did whatever even though you really don’t know if so and so ever did anything at all. And then it gets back to so and so that they have been the topic of today’s talk around the water cooler and you can imagine how so and so now feels.
We kind of walk a fine line in the church however when it comes to this idea of gossip. We gather for prayer and we lift up names for prayer and admittedly most of our prayers are because someone is having a problem. Is it gossip when we gather for prayer and say “We need to pray for so and so because they have lost their job”? And are we close enough as a congregation to be able to lift up so and so in a prayer request and not leave and go out to our everyday lives and say to a friend or a colleague or a family member - “Did you know so and so lost their job” - which means we have gone from a prayer request to gossip….. But it is easy to blur the idea of being concerned and in congregational prayer for someone who truly needs our prayers - and taking that prayer and turning it into improper conversations with others…. It is just a matter of thinking before we speak about someone and in what context we speak about someone and what we are saying about someone and maybe walking away from the water cooler when other people begin to talk about someone…
When you read this commandment in different versions of the Bible, there are a bunch of different words used. We are probably most familiar with “You shall not bear false witness….” But you also find translations that say simply, “You shall not lie”. or “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” “Don’t accuse anyone falsely”
In a Hebrew sense this commandment has two levels to it. The first level means exactly what the commandment sounds like - in a court of law, in a legal sense, don’t falsely bring charges against someone or if you are in court don’t lie on the stand against someone. Interestingly enough in Leviticus when there are comments about this commandment, the Hebrew law stated that if you bring someone up on charges falsely or if you testify falsely about someone and you get caught, you are charged with the crime you have falsely accused someone o, and you have to serve their sentence…… That sounds like a good deterrent.
Think about what characteristics you value most in someone you know or work with or have any kind of relationship with and I bet that honesty rates right up there near the top of the list. In order to really be able to have any kind of relationship with someone you have to be able to trust them - you have to be able to belief what they say. If you don’t trust them, if you can’t believe what they tell you, if you can’t rust their promises, if you can’t depend upon them then it is difficult to have any and of relationship…. Now we know that there isn’t a human we can depend upon 100%, but you quickly learn in life who you can trust and who you can’t. This commandment commands us to be the one that other people can trust; the person that other people can depend upon; the person that

other people know that if we are going to say we are going to do something - we are going to do it! Maybe we could restate the commandment to say, “Be trustworthy!”
But if we are to be trustworthy, is it ever Ok to tell a lie? We talk about ‘little white lies’ and we often think that there are instances where it is Ok to tell a lie. Biblically we have justification for this. The midwives Puah and Shiprah lie to Pharaoh to save the Baby Moses and other Hebrew babies the Pharaoh has ordered killed; the prostitute Rahab lies to the Jericho soldiers looking for Joshua and the other Hebrew spies in order to save their lives. So there are exceptions to the to what we would consider an untruth…. There is a Jewish law that states that ‘you are to tell every bride they are beautiful’. Which you could have to stretch the truth to do…. When I worked as a chaplain there were times when telling a patient or a family the whole truth at certain times was just not done - for the well being of the patient or the family. What the Old Testament nuances of the idea of lying is for us to think about whether we are withholding the truth because we are trying to create an advantage for ourselves or if we are trying to harm someone - or are we trying to do what is good for another person in that particular situation. To save a life, to avoid injury, to protect someone from being taken advantage of, to keep harmony. Again, the ethical dilemma is whether the ‘little white lie’ is for our personal benefit, or to help someone else.
According to Ephesians 4, even speaking the truth can be something that is contrary to living a Christian life. Verse 29 says, “
Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” All speech should be said in love. Truth used as a weapon at someone - friend or enemy - is never appropriate. The truth should never be used as an excuse to demean or demoralize or manipulate other people. The truth should never be used to create an unfair advantage over someone else.
When you look at this commandment in the Hebrew, the emphasis of the commandment is more on the word ‘witness’ than it is on the word ‘false’. We are being called to be a good witness so what does that mean when it comes to learning more about living this life God calls us to live which means in everything we do, God wants us to be a good witness.
If you are watching a legal show on TV and the witness is called to the stand we know that witness says they are going to ‘tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. Being a good witness then is first of all telling the truth. We’ve talked about that. As followers of Christ we are to tell the truth. This reminds of what Jesus saying “I am the way the truth and the life.” To be a witness is to live like Jesus has told us - because Jesus shows us the proper ‘way’, and by following ‘his’ way we live the life Jesus asks us to live and when we live as Jesus calls us to we are being a good witness to people about what it means to be a Christian - a follower of Christ - someone who believes with all our heart that Jesus really is the true way to live.
A good portion of the books in the last part of the Old Testament are prophets telling the Jews to remember what it means to be a good witness to God - and over and over and over again the prophets say things like - treat each other fairly, be a good neighbor, show mercy to one another….. think about all the good things God has done for your and show those same kinds of good things to the people around you.
Maybe it would help us if we looked at the commandment in a positive way instead of a negative one - would it help if the commandment said - ‘Be a good witness to the life God asks you to live…. Be a good witness to the love and grace of Jesus Christ’.
In other words - learn what Jesus tells us to do and then try to live that way. Don’t be a false witness - be a good witness to the truth of Jesus and what is possible when you listen and follow!
when you look at this commandment, “Don’t bear false witness: don’t tell lies; Be honest and truthful. Show people there is another way to live where you can be honest and trustworthy; where you don’t try to take unfair advantage of people or try to manipulate people; or try to do whatever is necessary to help yourself.
Treat your neighbor in the same trustworthy way you would like for your neighbor to treat you. Amen!

Faithful Gratitude

Faithful Gratitude

We heard two stories today about leprosy. For the people of Bible Times - Old and New Testament times - leprosy was a devastating disease. Leprosy literally stole your life. You had to leave your home, your family, your job. You were banned from any human contact except for other lepers. You were forced out of the temple which meant you had to give up any contact with God - it was literally a hopeless life. All you could do was spend the rest of your life in isolation with other lepers waiting to die.
In our first story we have a man called Namaan who is a very important man - a national hero. Everyone loved him and looked up to him and he had a healthy ego. this leprosy was devastating because it meant the loss of all of this. He would have to ‘disappear’ into isolation. He has a young Hebrew slave girl who tells him if he goes to the prophet Elisha, the prophet will heal him. But for a man who has always been in charge and self-sufficient and capable, going to someone for help was a tough thing! But he is desperate and he goes.
Elisha, through his servant, tells Namaan to go and dip into the Jordan 7 times and he will be healed. Namaan’s ego is hurt because he is an important man and the prophet should have come and told him himself and Namaan thinks he deserves some type of big deal and some big ceremony to get healed….. but he is a desperate man and he does what Elisha tells him and lo and behold, Namaan dips in the Jordan seven times and he is healed. And he goes back to Elisha and his response is Thanksgiving! Praise God! Namaan says and I will worship God forever!
This story reminds us to think about what God has done for us - not so much super things but ordinary things, day to day things, all those small things that we know are from God. And that we need to remember and to offer God what we have - praise and thanksgiving and adoration. Our response to all the moments of our life where God provides for us is to say, “I will worship God forever with love and thanksgiving!”
That is the first step to understanding Stewardship - simple worship and thanksgiving.
Our second story talks about Jesus who is walking down the road when he encounters 10 lepers.
Remember these are men who have been outcast, who have no future, who have been away from their previous lives for we don’t know how long. We don’t know how long it has been since they have seen their families or how long it has been since they were allowed to worship. But what we do know is that they know their only chance of returning to a normal life is in Jesus.
So they come to Jesus and ask him for help. Jesus’ response is “Go show yourself to the priest and you will be healed.” And they do exactly what Jesus tells them to do. They go and in the going they are healed. If they had just stood there looking at Jesus wondering what Jesus was telling them to do and not understanding what Jesus meant or why they were to do it this way, I doubt the healing would have happened. It was in the obedience to what Jesus has told them to do the healing takes place. But we know that once they go to the priest and the priest sees their leprosy is gone, they can return to a normal life.
But these were 9 men. There was a 10th man. This man came back and comes back praising God. With a loud voice, shouting thanksgivings to God. He gets down at Jesus’ feet. Puts his face on the ground to show and shout his thanks to Jesus and to God for his healing.
This man’s thanksgiving isn’t just something he feels in his heart. His thanksgiving is coming out in his words and with the steps that his takes. He is grateful. With all of his body. With all of his heart. With all of his soul. With all of his mind. Grateful.
Jesus tells him, “Get up.” “Go on your way.” “Your faith has made you whole.”
Think about that word - whole. You faith has made you whole. Not just well - the healing of the leprosy came earlier but it was in the thanksgiving that this 10th man was changed. His thanksgiving didn’t affect the other 9 man; it didn’t change or affect Jesus; the person it made a difference to was the man himself. His thanksgiving changed him. His gratitude for what Jesus did for him changed him.
So we are back to what we learned from Namaan - about thinking about the things God has done for us - and about our response. We don’t say Thank You! to God because God’s blessings are dependent on our gratitude, we say thank you to God for all the things God has done for us because it changes us. It changes how we look at life, how we understand God - it makes us whole.
Something that easy and simple - just to sincerely say Thank You for all the blessings in our life can change our whole outlook on life.
Faithful gratitude, recognizing that we can credit God for our lives and for the food that we eat and the love that we share and so very much, much, more. It changes us. Makes us whole.
On this Stewardship Sunday, we are thankful for all you have done in the work of this church. Your giving empowers and encourages and allows children to know they are an important part of the life of this church and for us to provide food for the hungry and for the homeless, for us to have a place in which to worship and a building where we can gather to fellowship and share meals and to learn more about the Bible. On this Stewardship Sunday we can be thankful for music and a musician to provide that music and a choir to share their gifts and talents; we can be thankful for learning opportunities in our Bible Studies and special programs during the seasons of the year; we can be thankful for the time commitment of our committee members as they do the work of the church; we can be thankful for those who faithfully attend worship each Sunday and we could go on. We truly have an abundance we can be thankful for as a congregation.
And what we know is that it has all come as a gift from God and our response today is to say thankful and to hear Jesus’ words when he says - your thanksgiving has made you whole.
And it blesses this church with abundance as you return to God a portion of all God has provided you.

Amen!