By Cathy Zhang
06 Nov 2011 Sunday
Worship song: Be Still and Know that I am God
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am God
In you O Lord, I put my trust
In you O Lord, I put my trust
In you O Lord, I put my trust
Presider's prayer: Larry Liu
Heavenly Father, it’s our joy to worship you and praise you together. Thank you for your amazing love, all your blessings, all your provision. We are so thankful for what you have done in our life. We want to thank you and we want more of you. We want to ask you to be the center of our life, our work, our marriage. Lord, I also want to pray for today’s speaker, Cathy. Please place Your words in Cathy’s mouth, and speak through her and to us. For us, Lord, please open our eyes to see what Your Spirit would have us see. Open our ears to hear what Your Spirit would have us hear. And most importantly, help us live out the practice, and help us be the salt and light in different places. We thank you for what you will do today. We pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN!
Scripture Reading: Luke 17: 11-19
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance
13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!".
14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?
18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?"
19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
Good morning. Please join me in a very short prayer. Lord of love, Lord of wisdom, Lord of Creation, please send Your Spirit to us. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be enlightened by You. And may Your wisdom be with us all, and open our eyes to learn to have gratitude and be grateful. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN!
In the past month, almost all of China has been touched or disturbed by one little girl who was only 2 years old in Dongguan, and her name Yue Yue has been known all over China. She was knocked over by a car, deserted, rolled over by car twice, and the video shows that 18 passersby ignored her. And later, all over China was discussing this, and we all find that we are all so ugly and nasty.
And there was a website survey that asked who you think should be blamed the most. About 40% think that those 18 passersby should be the ones to be blamed, not the one who caused this accident and ran away. It’s a little bit ridiculous, all those passersby who ignored this thing later received some blackmails and curses, and some of them even dare not go outside.
It is the indifference that people think, now China as we are developing ourselves so quickly and we are materializing enriched, and we just find this indifference so deep and strong. And we were shocked and scared.
How come people become so indifferent to each other? It is because our hearts have been hardened. Truly we are developing ourselves, but there are so many problems and troubles—changes come so quickly. We tend to forget that there are things that we need to be thankful for. And this attitude of gratitude can make your heart be softened, to be tender. Think for a while, when you have something to be thankful for, when you close your eyes and return to your mind, and you want to think of something to be grateful for, there will be a smile on your face, and your heart will be warmed.
A lot of times we take things for granted. And then we forget there is a need to be grateful, and a need to speak out your gratitude. This month the church decided to focus these next four weeks on being thankful and being grateful. If we can have this heart of gratitude, we believe there can be change to this indifferent world. We will make a change and challenge the indifference among the people, among the Chinese.
So I picked up Luke, at the suggestion of a friend who loves this story very much. Luke chapter 17 verses 11 to 19. Luke described Jesus as the Son of Man. He basically followed the book of Mark, except that after Luke 9:51, he inserted a lot of material until chapter 18. When Jesus was heading to Jerusalem and he knew he was going to be crucified there, he went on. Luke had many teachings there between chapter 9:51 until chapter 18. And our story is in chapter 17, almost at the end of this big insertion, or teachings of Jesus.
In this chapter, there are three parts. If you read the Bible, you will find that there are first some teachings of Jesus, then the 10 leapers, then the coming of the kingdom. So, before the story of the 10 leapers, the teachings of Jesus are very interesting. Jesus talked about forgiveness. No matter how many times people have sinned against you or offended you, if they come back and ask for forgiveness, you have to forgive them. And then, he talked about faith; how much faith we should have. And Jesus said you only need a tiny bit of faith, maybe only that as big as a little mustard seed is enough for you. Actually it is God’s action. If you have a tiny bit of faith, God will work through you. And after faith, He talked about a master and his servant. The duty of the servant is to do what you should have done, and the master will now thank you for that.
So what is the duty of the servant? Here come these 10 leapers. Clearly Jesus was walking toward Jerusalem and he had to pass the Samaria area. These 10 leapers stood at a distance.
Concerning the rules of the leapers, we can read Leviticus 13 and 14 and you will know the rules for them. They are required to be isolated from the community because they are not clean.
So the leapers were standing from afar, but were calling, “Master, have mercy on us!” Now remember that they were calling “master.” Some commentators say that they believed in Jesus, so they called him master. Sometimes they think the word”master” is a similar word to “Lord,” but actually in Greek, this word means “Chief.” And “Master” if we come back, as related to Luke 5 in the story of Peter. Peter was fishing, and Jesus came, they were working hard all night, but caught nothing.. And Jesus said “cast the nets on the other side of the boat.” Here, Peter called him “Master.” “Master, we have worked all night.”
After Peter saw the miracle, he threw himself at the feet of Jesus and cried out, “Please leave me, I am a sinner! My Lord…” He is called “Lord.” So if you think about that, these 10 leapers were calling “Master.” They might believe that Jesus was the miracle-doer, and had some kind of super power. They have heard the legends. They wanted to try. And Jesus told them to go to the priest, show their body to the priest. It’s also in Leviticus that when you think you are healed, you go show your body to the priest, and after seeing that there is no red flesh on your body, you can be cleansed. And then they will offer a sacrifice according to Moses’ requirement.
So these 10 went, and one of them after he realized that he was clean, came back. And as the same poster as Peter, he also fell at the feet of Jesus, thanked God, and praised God. And then Jesus asked the rhetorical question, saying, “Where are the rest?” And it is very interesting that Jesus said, “You may go now. Your faith has saved you.” So in the English Bible ,you can read that he was healed, came back, thanked God, and Jesus said that your faith saved you So this one, who is a Samaritan, very strangely again another Samaritan, we know that the village of the Samaritans did not welcome Jesus. But then Jesus told a story of the Good Samaritan who showed an example of loving one’s neighbor. And now here, another Samaritan, who realized that something had happened, came back, praised God, and recognized Jesus.
Some commentators say that this story actually reminded us of the two-sided nature of the redemption of our salvation. From God, that is forgiveness. And from those who have been forgiven, they should offer their gratitude.
And also some other commentators told us that the story reminded us that we should or we need to be grateful to our God, the creator who provided everything, to our parents who give us life and also to our friends, teachers, colleagues or even our enemies. Yes, it is all talking about gratitude and because gratitude has the power. The first power of gratitude we can see is the healing. Many people have said the healing not only just physically but also spiritually. Many come to the church to seek healing, because you are in the very low moment, you are sick and somebody else told you that if you pray to God sincerely and ask for forgiveness maybe you can be healed. And many did, they have experienced this miraculous healing and they came to the church and became a believer. It is great! However if we pursue a spiritual healing, we can't stop there.
For like these 9 lepers. Their bodies have been healed. They are cleaned. They can be welcomed back to the community. They can live their life again. But, it is not yet finished. What does the spiritual healing mean? Spiritual healing means that in the future, no matter what happen, nothing can take your faith away. Spiritual healing means that in the future, you are still going to come across difficult times, harsh attitudes. And you are still going to be beaten, abused and maybe mocked by the others, isolated but you are always grateful and you have this power to be grateful, to find the things that you can be thankful for.
It is perfectly well and it is easy for anyone of us to be thankful when we are good, when we are happy. Like this leper, healed, what a miracle! What a blessing! It is still easy, although he has been very exceptional, one out of ten to come back and praised God. But still for him, at this moment to be grateful is easy. It is very hard to be grateful when you are in the darkness.
Mother Teresa has been the example of faith all for many and there is a book called ”Come Be My Light”. It talks about Mother Teresa's darkness. You may not believe that for 40 years or more than 40 years actually ever since Mother Teresa started her ministry, she was in this darkness. In the day, she was telling everybody how Jesus loved her and how Jesus was with her and strengthened her to do all the ministries, and how she could be so compassionate to the poor and deserted people. But actually in the night, she was desperate. She could only feel the darkness. She couldn't feel that God was with her and she felt that she was deserted by God. God doesn't love her at all. She wrote all these letters to her spiritual director and she was yearning at night. She called herself hypocritic.
For 40 years she was living in this kind of life in the darkness. Finally she made peace trying to believe that this kind of desertedness, loneliness, darkness and this agony of being deserted by God who she loved so much actually is the same agony she could feel from Jesus on the cross. She has to think that way: "This is the agony, loneliness, darkness Jesus has experienced or had experienced on that cross." She has been fighting with the darkness for 40 years and finally to achieve peace. Hearing that she was living in darkness, are you going to think that she is not a great person anymore? No. For me, I adore her more because I know that she must have tried her best to find the things from that darkness to be grateful to that she can move on. She was a very strong-willed woman, very tough and once she was determined, she would do it. And all this power came from God. Maybe she couldn’t see it at that moment. So in the darkness to be grateful is harder. But if you just insist on it, stick to it. Insist on that you should be grateful in all kinds of situations then you will find it.
And to share another, James Legge, a missionary. Many Chinese university scholars have been reclaiming or recovering the great deeds that having been done by the missionaries. Their contributions have been reclaimed .James Legge, was a missionary from Scotland. He was not an Anglican. He is from a non-Anglican church-a protestant missionary. He came to serve in Hong Kong for 30 years. As a missionary, his great contribution was not evangelism, but his translation and interpretation of Chinese classics. He translated many of them. You name it. From the beginning, he was trying to understand what Chinese were thinking, so he worked with Chinese to translate these classics. In the beginning, he was not that sympathetic to Confucius. But later, he believed that Confucius was actually like Moses. Moses was who God prepared for the Jews. And perhaps God prepared Confucius for the Chinese. So he tried to bridge these two cultures, and to see how God had prepared the Chinese heart to welcome, receive, or listen to the news that was coming from the West.
He was a missionary.. Always pious. And through his interpretations, you can see his Christian ideas everywhere. But he respected Chinese as well. And later when he came back to be the first Chinese professor in Oxford, he worked there for 22 years translating more Chinese books. He had collected many Chinese classics. And he also answered many letters explaining Chinese culture. He was also the one who was causing a dispute among the missionaries at that time. And now in China we have the Bible., We have Shangdi Ban 上帝版 and Shen Ban 神版. And James Legge might prefer Shangdi because it is a Chinese classic. It might be better for the English God in the Bible.
What I want to say about James Legge is that he was grateful to God. In a very harsh environment, at that time, it was not allowed to do any evangelism in China. You could only stay in Macau or Hong Kong. How did they do it? They tried to appreciate whatever was provided for them, and to work from there. For a foreigner to respect Chinese ancient cultures…but nowadays in China among the intellectuals who have become Christians, they don’t think there is any heritage or good thing we can achieve from the Confucius classical texts or traditions. Some of them, after they became a Christian, they just tried to be isolated, or cut off, from their tradition completely. But I have to say, you can never do it. You were born as a Chinese, and think in a Chinese way. So to be grateful for what God has provided for us, and try to know our culture, and then we will find our own way to make God’s Word rooted in our culture.
The third point for the power of gratitude is that it is, actually, with a heart of gratitude, you faith will grow. As I said in the saying of Jesus in the previous verses, you only need a tiny, little faith like a mustard seed. Actually, God is working all the time. In history, nowadays, in everybody’s life. No matter if you know it or not, and God’s faithfulness never changes. This is what we believe.
No matter if your faith is big or small, God is there and God is working in you and through you. So when you have a heart of gratitude, even in the darkness, in the very difficult times: you lost your family, you lost your loved ones, you’re eager for the love of a mother that has been away, or you were abused by somebody, you can’t get away from this hatred, you are lonely, you were deserted, you were cheated by your friends, you were betrayed…even in all these kinds of situations, or seeing this world so materialized that people around you are so indifferent and cold. Even then, you just only need a little faith.
In gratitude, thinking that if I can find something to be grateful for, if I can find for myself a little bit of faith in gratitude, then you will find the work of God through you, in you, and through the people around you. And in this way, I know many people actually were very depressed. I have come across many people who are depressed. And actually regarding these people, there may be others who have to take care of you and you feel demanding or so impulsive. Sometimes you just want to be alone, and you want to be deserted. You just want to want to let me go away and just kill myself. But don’t take that for granted. Don’t give up! Just get that little bit of tiny faith in gratitude, and be grateful. Don’t take it for granted anymore. But be grateful to those people around you who have been sustaining you, and trying to work on you, trying to be with you, and trying to talk with you. To have a little bit of faith in gratitude, you will be changed.
Larry said at the beginning of this worship service to think of something, quietly, to be grateful for. It’s a very good idea. Before you go to bed, think of just one thing to be grateful for. Then your day will be different. That needs a little tiny faith to do that.
In China, there is a quite famous song called “A Heart of Gratitude” 《感恩的心》, loved by many. And it has been performed with sign language. It’s beautiful, touching. And one legend surrounding this song is about a girl who was deserted in Taiwan, and was picked up by a couple, very poor. This poor couple raised her and sent her to college, but the father passed away early. And then the mother tried her best to support this girl. But after the girl finished her education and came back, the mother had also passed away. The girl was very sad and wrote this song, actually was a poem and later put to melody. The main idea of this song was talking about is s follows:
“I came to this world like dust, by chance. No one has seen my weakness., No one knows that I am fragile. I don’t know where to go, and I don’t know who is going to wait for me at the next corner. The world is big and my journey is very tough and hard. And I have experienced all the indifference and hardness in this world, but I will never give up! I am very grateful, with a grateful heart, I am thankful that you are here with me, and you have been in my life to encourage me to remain true to myself. And with a grateful heart, I thank you for giving me this life so that I might, no matter if it is in bloom or withering, I will cherish whatever happens to me. “
All the Chinese I know love this song, and are touched by this song.
This is all telling us that life is not easy. Like this leper who has been deserted, isolated, ostracized from the community is now healed! And as soon as he’s healed, he came back and fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked God, knowing the reason that he had been saved. He named it, he spoke it out. In this way, he got this faith or this spiritual healing that would never be taken away by any harshness or any difficult situation. So that the power of gratitude will bring us this type of spiritual healing and the power of gratitude will bring us a different world view, so we can see the situations differently. Even in the darkness, we can find the things we can be grateful for. And this power of gratitude will give us faith and will cultivate our faith.
May all of us have this heart of gratitude so that we can challenge and fight against the indifference around us that is going to swallow us. No! We are the tiny little light in this world, that we are grateful to our God, that we are grateful in all kinds of situations., we know that God is our refuge and our strength. And for all of those who have not yet claimed your faith in Jesus Christ, may you also feel that warmth, and be touched by the people around you. May God bless His words.
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