When it's time for our annual check-up, and we pass all the tests, we think that we "are well." When we test our stamina by running or walking a 5K race, and we complete the course, we have a sense that we "are alright!" When we finish the final exam in our hardest subject in school, turn in the paper and feel good about all our study habits, we think, "I'm gonna be just fine."
In the Gospel story for this weekend, Jesus heals ten lepers, tells them to go show themselves to the priests (which was what Jewish law of the day required). As they went toward the priest's quarters, they were completely healed. One turned from his task and returned to Jesus to give Him thanks. After remarking to whomever might be listening about the fact that there were ten who were healed, He said to the one grateful man - "your faith has made you well."
Thinking it through, the rebel Jesus is at it again. He told the ten to go through the proper channels of purity, and so nine of them were doing exactly what Jesus commanded they do. The only one who disobeyed the Lord's simple word was the one who gets the divine praise. But, what does it mean to "be well"? How does faith fit into the prescription of healing from a deadly disease to complete wellness?
Jesus once said to His disciples: "If someone tells you to go one mile with him, go two." (Mt. 5:41) At another time, He said to His friends, "If someone asks you for something, give it to them and don't expect it back." (Lk 6:30)
The law exists to give us peace and order and a guide for daily life. It helps protect the innocent and convict the guilty. God gave us the law to follow, and, as Christians, it is the first thing we must do to live a good life. But it is not just the law that gives life that is good.
Jesus always expected more. No matter what we give, God loves us; no matter how hard we work at being good, Jesus' love never ends. God's love is a given. You cannot shake it. You can ignore it or refuse it. But as long as you have the least bit of sense in your head, you'll know your heart is held fast by God only because He loves you undeniably.
To say thanks is a big deal to Jesus. It's not simply because the man came back to the Lord-but because he went beyond the norm-that Jesus considered his action as an extraordinary thing. He turned back in faith, and remembered the origin of his healing, the center of his new life. There is a great gift of wholeness in this act. God loves us completely as we just said, but when we turn back to Him, we ourselves sense a greater wellness than we have ever known.
Thus - "faith" does makes one well. It helps fill in all the crevices of our heart, soul, and mind (where all those uncertainties about God, life, and humanity like to hang out).
It the reason we "go" to church on Sundays. We don't go because it makes God happy (although I'm pretty sure He smiles when He sees us there); we go so God can be with us and we with Him. We go as a way to let our faith grow as He wants it to. It's there in the worship of God that we are "made well." Please throw all the statistics we like to pitch around about our wonderful attendance out the window and realize the real reason pastors encourage "church going" is so that we might really understand what Jesus means when He says to the one healed gentleman: "Your faith has made you well."
When we praise, share, or reach out - in essence - love God and neighbor as self, we seek the truth of wellness. We experience this wellness every time we go outside of ourselves. Oh, I suppose we feel good about ourselves every once in a while (and God allows us to that from time to time), but when we let faith take the lead we will know the wholeness of God and His love once again.
Don't just "go one, go two." God is with us the whole way. Open your heads and hearts to His grace and know that you have done well, good and faithful servant. Then you and I can know of this "wellness" of which our Lord speaks!
Know this because it's true,
God loves you and so do we!
Update on Ashley Nipper:
Ashley completed the next-to-last pre-treatment for her reconstructive surgery this past week. It creates a few days of "uncomfortableness" for her, so she has to rest a lot. It was even more so difficult for her this past week because she did take a trip with us to the Knoxville Zoo to meet all the grandchildren last Wednesday; it really wore her down. But, she is quite the trooper and she is on the mend again, only to experience her last treatment next week. After this, she will have a respite from the treatments so that she can rest up for her November 8 hysterectomy and permanent reconstructive surgery at the same time.
Taylor and Lennon are doing great! David continues to work hard but does have time to spend with Ashley and the children. Our presence does create some alone time (particularly Sunday afternoons), which is good for them.
We are - as always - so grateful for your thoughts and prayers! They mean so much to Mary Alice and me, as for our whole family!
God bless you!
Pastor Jim & Mary Alice