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COLUMN: Thankers and takers

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By Steve Gettinger

A reading from Luke 17:11-19:
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, 10 men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

The 10 lepers stood at a distance from Jesus. Why at a distance? Most people tried to get as close to Jesus as possible. They stood at a distance because they had leprosy and the laws of their day required that they keep a distance from all other people in an effort to keep the disease from spreading to others.
Leprosy is a disease that infects and disfigures the body. It is a disease that eventually kills the body. It is a disease that isolates a person from others. The only cure for leprosy during the time of Jesus was a miraculous healing from God.
There is another disease that has similar affects as leprosy on all of us, it is the spiritual disease called sin. I would like to spend a few minutes today looking at the spiritual disease of sin and its cure.
One way of knowing if you have a certain disease is to look for the symptoms of that disease, so let us look at some symptoms of sin and see if we have any of them: Envy, impatience, lying, gossip, jealousy, quarreling, being mean, self –centeredness, pride, adultery, lust, disobedience, malice, hatred, slander, laziness, stealing, unkindness, uncompassionate, etc.
One thing that is so bad about sin is that if it is left untreated, it will spiritually kill you. It will result in a person being separated from God for eternity, an eternity in hell, where there is weeping and suffering. I do not know about you, but I can barely stand the thought of people going to hell and suffering forever. That is one of the reasons why I became a pastor, so that I could point people to the cure for sin — Jesus, the great physician of body and soul. I want people to be cured of their terminal spiritual disease of sin. Sin is only curable through faith in Jesus Christ, the savior.
The 10 lepers cried out to Jesus as the cure giver. They trusted that Jesus could heal them of their leprosy. They cried out “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”  In faith they came to Jesus for the cure. In faith, they received the gift of healing that Jesus had for them and they were made well by his power, so it is with us as spiritual lepers.
In faith, we come to Jesus and confess our disease of sin. In faith, we cry out to receive the gift of forgiveness and are made righteous by his power.
I pray that each one of you have faith in Jesus and what he did for us on the cross. I pray that each of you receive the wonderful gifts of forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus offers to you for free. Those gifts cannot be purchased with money and are priceless to those who possess them. Those gifts bring each of us into a relationship with the God of the universe.  He becomes our heavenly father and we become his children in the waters of baptism, where we receive his name, the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Let me ask you some questions:

-How is your relationship with Jesus going?
-Are you close and intimate with Him?
-Are you conversing with Him regularly in daily prayer?
-Are you allowing Him to speak to you regularly through His Holy Word?
-Are you eating with Him regularly at the Lord’s Supper?
-Are you supporting the Lords work with you time, talent, treasure?

Did you notice in the Gospel reading that there were 10 lepers that received the gift of healing from Jesus, but only one came back to thank Jesus. The other nine got what they wanted and were gone. That means there were nine takers and one thanker.
One thing I have noticed as I have served in church leadership over the last 25 years.  Just like there were two kinds of lepers, there are two kinds of church people. There are takers, who get what they want and are gone. They are more interested in being served and what they can get from God and the church than in giving and serving. Then there are the thankers, who, like the on leper, come to Jesus and give Him thanks for all that He has done for them. They, out of that thankfulness, serve God and His church with joy and gratitude in the good times and the tough times.
The story about the ten lepers is our story. All of us were once diseased outcasts, but those of us who those of us who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins are a part of the family of God.  We had a disease much worse than leprosy, but now we are healed.  Although one day we will physically die, Jesus will raise us up to live a new life with him forever in heaven. Thanks be to God. Amen.