10/11/98, P19C

“What God Can Not Do”
Luke 17: 11-19

ne of the things we take for granted in a free economy is choices between a variety of many products to buy. It’s not that way in a government controlled economy. One of the shocking things to me when I was in Poland was that there was just one type of toothpaste, one kind of ice cream, one automobile, even one hair dye--- and it was mahogany. Half the women in Poland had mahogany hair: No striking redheads with black eyebrows, no bottle blondes.

Later the President of our Methodist College in Warsaw came to visit us and I could not wait to take her to K-Mart. She was out of toothpaste, and was awestruck of so many choices, scores of combinations and sub-groupings: Colgate, Gleem, Crest; some with fluoride, some for whitening teeth, others for kissing fresh breath. After looking for what seemed like thirty minutes, she did not decide on any--- too many choices, she could not make up her mind.

There is something virtually divine about making choices. Indeed we are in a sense modeling God when we exercise autonomy in making decisions that determine destiny. Will I marry Ted or Tod? They are about the same, but my heart goes pitter pat when I am with Tod, even though he has a huge nose. Years later you realize that your choice of Tod meant that your kids and grand kids look a whole lot like him; folks say, “He sure has his grandpaws nose!” This is why I married such a beautiful woman, to improve our family gene pool: and also, my heart went pitter pat.

We worship a Creator who stepped out on nothing and flung the stars into space. He ordered this new universe to operate according to natural laws and he continued to shepherd and form its beauty. The land was divided and the seas were formed. Gradually he filled the earth with various forms of creatures. The creation story says that it took a week, but a week in God’s sight is as a thousand years, or a million. The point is that it took time, and God worked through a creative process. This was not evolution, it was his divine creative forces at work.

God’s supreme creation was man and woman. We are unique in our superior mental and physical abilities; however, we are most special to the Father because we are an eternal part of him because he shared with us his living soul. We contain a spark of the divine. He created us for interconnection, for friendship with him. To be truly in union with God we had to be given free will. We know well the Biblical account of Adam and Eve’s decision to rebel against God. God could have forced Adam and Eve to be his friends, but then humanity would have lost it’s soul and the freedom to love and respond in relationship. The one thing that God cannot do, because of his self limitation, is force us to do as he says.

We who are parents can share in God’s self imposed dilemma. We can have dreams for our kids, but they reveal themselves early in infancy as creatures with a mind of their own. Like most expectant parents, we read the books on child care and had some idea about how to rear our babies, but we all were constantly stumped by such simple things as feeding, and bathing. Frankly, if they did not want to get into the water it was a mess. If they were not in the mood to eat, they would shake that little head no with determined force. As I think of it, shaking the head no, from side to side, must be the first form of infant communication, and expression of free will. It took years for the up and down yes, to be learned.

Our text illustrates the Divine quandary. Here we find that Jesus had healed ten lepers, but only one bothered to return and thank him. The others took their cleansing and went on their merry way.

Still today we are free to go on our merry way.

Yet, deep in everyone’s heart is the knowledge that God is the source of all good and perfect things. Deep down we know that we need linkage with Him in order to fulfill our potential. We are inwardly aware that the creative process is still at work within our souls. We hunger for intimacy with Him, but we still have the freedom to play the rebel.

One of the haunting questions of biblical literature is, “Where are the nine?” Jesus must have been disappointed that only one returned to talk, to engage in a relationship. The story does not include the results of this initial act of faith, but don’t we all like to think that he decided to become one of the first to follow the Christ.

Don’t you know that Jesus still asks that same question when we fail to live out our calling. Can't you hear him asking that ageless question when we refuse to respond to his nudging.

Although we have been given the divine gift of autonomy, our lives are never complete until we surrender our personal sovereignty to the God who flung the stars into space. With our hand in the hand of the Creator, we can begin to know and understand the meaning of life, and our place in his creation.

Aren’t we glad that Jesus did not make the nine unthankful former lepers return? Are we not supremely glad that we have been given the choice to follow him, and that we have acted positively upon that choice?

God has wonderful scenarios in mind for our lives. Our choice is to follow his lead as we hear his still small voice nudging us along. He knows how life will be different by each choice we make along the way, but he will not allow himself to make the right choices for us.

We have the freedom to put our hand in his and allow him to lead in the dance. There is no limit to what we can begin to do when we join hands with the Creator in fulfilling his plan. What if we each reaffirmed that choice today?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

10/11/98, P19C