Let Go of Self Love

October 12, 2014

A year ago the word Frozen referred to food that was in your
freezer and “Let it Go” was something you told you four year old when you
wanted them to release their grip on a toy or their sibling or when you were
counselling someone over some hurt from the past.

That all changed on November 27th of last year when Disney released
“Frozen” on an unsuspecting world.  The
animated movie is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Snow
Queen”.  And it wasn’t the first time
that Disney used an Anderson story as inspiration, The Ugly Duckling was
released in 1931 in Black and White and then again in 1939 in colour.  And of course the most successful adaptation,
until Frozen was the Little Mermaid.

But Frozen changed all that, but it wasn’t
easy.  For those of us brought up on Hans
Christian Anderson’s tales you know that the Snow Queen was not a light hearted
tale. 
Anderson’s version begins with an Evil Troll
called the Devil, the Snow Queen was Evil and Anna’s name was Gerda and she
wasn’t related to the Snow Queen at all.  
The only other differences were that Kristoff’s name was Kay, Sven’s
name was Bai there was no snowman named Olaf or prince named Hans.  Kay is taken captive by the Snow Queen and it
rescued by Gerda and the Reindeer. 
Two notable things about the story, Gerda gains
entrance into the Snow Queen’s castle after she prays the Lord’s Prayer and the
story ends with Gerda and Kay back home and all grown up.  And in closing Gerda’s grandmother reads to
them from Matthew 18:3 “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are
converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom
of heaven.”
But there is a Queen and there is Snow.  I think the term would be “inspired” by Hans
Christian Anderson’s story.  But it
obviously worked because to date it has accumulated over $1.2 billion in
worldwide box office revenue,
It ranks as the highest-grossing animated film of
all time, the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, the highest-grossing
film of 2013, and the third highest-grossing film in Japan.
Frozen won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature
and Best Original Song (“Let It Go”),the Golden Globe Award for Best
Animated Feature Film, the BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, five Annie
Awards (including Best Animated Feature), and two Critics’ Choice Awards for
Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Let It Go”).
And you are thinking: so what?  Well, over the next seven weeks or so we are
going to be looking at things that we need to let go of as we follow
Christ.  Things that keep us frozen in
our Christian walk.  Things that shouldn’t
bother you anyway, but do. 
What are those things that we need to Let Go of
when we meet Christ? Things that may be acceptable for us to hold unto before
we met Jesus but really have no place in our lives after we meet Jesus.  And we think that some of those things are
pretty simple, but we don’t always get it.
The story that was read for us earlier is a very
familiar part of the Jesus story, as a matter of fact I preached from this same
passage a year ago when we started our series on the Walking Dead.  But at that time I focused on the nine lepers
who didn’t come back and this morning I’d like to take the time to focus on the
one leper who did come back. 
So, you know the story.  Jesus and his apostles are approached by this
group of Lepers begging for something they could barely imagine. 
They are asking to be healed, for Jesus to stop
the progression of this horrible disease that has robbed them of all they
had.  Ten are healed and they go their
way, but then one stops and comes back to thank Jesus.  Here is a pop quiz, how many were
thankful?  Probably all ten.  They just didn’t express their thanks, but I
guess the question is: if they didn’t express their thanks were they really
thankful?  If we don’t express our
gratitude for what we have, and for what people do for us are we grateful?  When our kids are little we teach them to say
thank-you, or at least I hope we do. 
Perhaps British Poet Walter Savage Landor  had it right when he wrote, “We often fancy that we suffer from ingratitude, while in reality
we suffer from self-love.”  And so
on this thanksgiving Sunday I would challenge you to Let go of Ingratitude or
Self-Love or whatever it it that keeps you from suffering from
thanklessness. 
So what do we learn from the man who came
back?  Luke 17:12
As he entered a village there, ten lepers
stood at a distance. . .  The
first thing is that He Understood His
Hopelessness
 We were watching
a W-5 special last week about the Ebola crisis in West Africa, which hits
pretty close to home because I have taught in Sierra Leone and was planning a
teaching and medical trip back there for this coming February, we’re not
going. 
And the special focused on the spread of the
disease and what is being done to help bring it under control.  And as I was watching I was reminded that our
denomination has been there from the beginning, before Canada offered aid,
before the US offered aid, before Bill Gates and the UN poured money into find
a solution the Wesleyan Church was there. 
While they were still numbering the cases in the dozens the people of
Cornerstone were not only praying for the crisis we were giving to empower
World Hope in the battle.   
And one of the things that the medical community
agrees on is the supply of clean water is critical in slowing the spread of the
Ebola virus.  And so there is no telling
how many lives have been saved because of the wells that have been drilled by
Cornerstone over the past two years. 
But I digress.
Probably one of the most poignant images from that
special was a man lying ill in the middle of a dirt street and life was just
going on around him, but nobody was coming near.   They were afraid of being infected with a
disease they knew would probably be fatal. 
And so there he lay, dying alone. 
And I immediately thought of Lepers 2000 years
ago.  When you were diagnosed with
Leprosy it was a death sentence.  There
was no known cure, if you had leprosy it was assumed by you and by everyone else
that you would die.  And because of the
fear surrounding leprosy you would die far from those you loved and far from
those who loved you.
And that’s what had happened to these ten men,
they had been exiled outside of their village, far from their homes, their only
companions were those who suffered with them.
2000 years ago there was no cure for leprosy,
there was only quarantine, isolation and a drawn-out painful death. 
Most of us don’t live a life without hope, at
least in the physical sense.  Most of us
are aware that compared to most of the world that we live a blessed life. 
And as I prepared this message I thought about how
we need to be thankful and grateful for where we live, and then I thought is
that even fair?  4 years ago I was in
Ghana when the earthquake hit in Haiti and I was told by a Ghanaian friend of
mine “In Africa we watch what happens in Haiti
because it reminds us of how lucky we are to live in Africa.”  And when I’ve told people that their
reaction ranges from: that’s terrible to think that way to that certainly puts
in in perspective.  
But how often is it suggested that we should be
thankful because of the misfortunes of others? 
You should be thankful that you’re not as sick as Suzy.  You should be thankful at least you have
something to eat and a place to sleep. 
It would be rude if I said “I’m thankful that I’m
Denn and not Fred.”  Because that would
imply that somehow being Denn is better than being Fred.  But is that any different than saying “I’m
thankful that I’m Canadian and not Sierra Leonean?   
And where we were born was no more our doing then
who we were born. 
But the leper didn’t even have someone worse off
to compare himself to.  He couldn’t say
“well I might have leprosy but at least I don’t have. . .”  Because two thousand years ago there wasn’t
anything worse.
And while we live in a blessed country and have
more physically than they majority of the world could even imagine, spiritually
we are without hope.
In our natural state, the way we were born there
is a gulf between us and our creator that we can never hope to bridge.  That is why we are reminded in the bible Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all
fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Before we can be thankful for the grace that God
has poured out on us we have to understand the hopelessness of our spiritual
condition before we received that grace. 
Grace is not just a nice addition to our lives it is our only hope. 
This man knew that without divine intervention
that he was destined to live a desperate lonely life, without hope and without
a future. 
But then there was a whisper of hope, the story of
someone who could make him clean and give back to him all that leprosy had
taken away.
And so as we continue to read
in the story, Luke 17:12-13 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a
distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”   He
Understood His Helplessness
We don’t know how the lepers knew about Jesus, or more
mysterious how they knew Jesus was coming, but in him they saw their only
hope. 
This man knew that there was absolutely nothing he could do
for himself.  Not only was he without
hope he was without help.
And he couldn’t even cover his disease up, listen to what
was required by the law of the day,   Leviticus 13:45-46 “Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear
their clothing and leave their hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and
call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as the serious disease lasts, they will
be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the
camp. 
This man knew that he could do nothing to help
himself.  But spiritually we often try to
bridge the gap between us and a Holy God. There is within us an innate need to
re-connect with our creator and when that doesn’t work we try to pretty up our
lives.  And so we try to do it with
religion and ceremony and good deeds. 
But it is never enough.  The bible
reminds us Isaiah 64:6 We are all infected and impure with
sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the
wind.
And so now into the lepers’ world of hopelessness and
helplessness came the rumor of one who could not only offer him hope he had
lost but who could also offer him the help that was out of his reach.  And so he asked for the one thing that he
wanted more than life itself, to be healed. 
That his disfigured face would once again be looked upon with love
instead of revulsion, that twisted limbs would become straight and that life,
life would return to normal.
Luke 17:14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the
priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. And He Understood What Had Happened.    And
the thing that they wanted more than anything was given to them.  
There are two miracles here; the first was that they
believed, the second was that they were healed. 
Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests and they went,
didn’t question, didn’t ask “what if we get there and there’s no change?”  
And the story says And as they went,
they were cleansed of their leprosy.  If
they hadn’t gone, do you think they would have been cleansed? If they had of
chosen to go see their families first, or gone back to work.   I don’t know, what I do know is that as
they obeyed the miracle happened.  And
imagine as they are walking along the conversation that took place if they
looked at one another and began to see the changes, “Hey Fred, your nose just
grew back, and Bill you’re not shuffling anymore.  I can feel my fingers again, and I feel like
singing.” 
I wonder what it felt like as the nodules disappeared and
skin was made smooth again, as twisted limbs became straight and strong.  I wonder if they had lost appendages to the
disease and what it felt like as fingers and toes grew back.
But this is what the one who returned understood.  Life would never be the same again.  For better or for worse he was given a second
chance at life.  And we don’t know if he
was able to fit back into his old life or not. 
Had his job been given to someone else? Had his wife remarried? Would
people accept him as a new man or would they always associate him with the
leper he had been?  We will never know,
but this we do know.  That after he met
Jesus he was no longer the man he had been.
As Jesus followers do we understand that?  That when we meet Jesus that we will never be
the same. 
In the book of John there is a very familiar story
told about Jesus meeting with a member of the religious elite, a man named
Nicodemus.  And it seems that even though
for most people Nicodemus seemed have had it all under control Nicodemus understood
his hopelessness and his helplessness and so he came to Jesus and if we pick up
the story in John 3:3  we read Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born
again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
And that confused Nicodemus.  John 3:4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back
into his mother’s womb and be born again?”   The term born again still confuses
people today, it has been used and abused so much and yet people still don’t
click into what it means.  John 3:5-6 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no
one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.
Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to
spiritual life.
Time and time again the scriptures use the analogy
of a new birth for the person who has embraced the grace and forgiveness of
Jesus.  It’s not just the old life with a
veneer of religion, it is a new life. 
Paul explains it best in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new
person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Just like the leper was given a new life when he
met Jesus and believed each of us is given a new life when we meet Jesus and
believe.  Jesus told the leper “Your
faith has healed you”  and Paul reminds
us in Ephesians 2:8 God saved you by his grace when you
believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Do you understand what happens when you meet
Jesus?  You are given a new life a
different life, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. You should see God
in a new way, and people in a new way. 
Your priorities should change and hang onto your seats, your behaviour
should change. 
So let’s go back to the story.  Luke 17:15-16 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to
Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking
him for what he had done. He
Understood His Need to Give Thanks
He didn’t just assume that Jesus would know he was thankful,
he took time to say “Thank you”.  Do we
just assume that people will know that we are thankful for what they’ve done in
our lives? Or do we take time to say thank you? 
2 things I discovered a long time ago, the first is that
thank yous are free and the second is that they go a long way.
It was in a different
context but Martin Luther King, Jr once said
”In the End, we will remember not the words of our
enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 
People notice when they aren’t thanked, petty or not that it the
reality of life. 
And the lone man was the man who didn’t take it for
granted.  Perhaps the others were
grateful but someone they felt like they deserved it, or just assumed that is
what Jesus was supposed to do. 
You know what I’m getting at here.  They thought “Well of course Jesus healed us
that’s what he’s supposed to do.”  Kind
of the difference between a dog and a cat. 
You feed a dog and they think you are the most wonderful person in the
world, you feed a cat and they wonder what took you so long.  Somebody said that when
you take care of your dog the dog thinks you must be a god, when you take care
of your cat the cat thinks it must be a god.
We don’t thank the Doctors who make us better physically
because that’s what they are supposed to do, we don’t thank the teachers who
make us better intellectually because that’s what they are supposed to do, and
we don’t thank the pastors who help us grow spiritually because, well let’s not
go there it’s too self-serving. 
But seriously, when you pick up your kids this morning in
Jr. Church or Nursery, take two seconds and thank those who gave up their time
so your kids could learn more about God. 
Did you enjoy the music this morning, thank the praise team and sound
guy who were here Thursday night and early this morning preparing it for
you.  How about the clean bathrooms
that’s worth thank Erv for.  And did you
have a cup of coffee. . .  you see where I’m
going. 
Too often people view God as some genie in the air who is
there only to take care of our wish list and we never acknowledge the debt
because we don’t really acknowledge the gift. 
Most prayer lists have a lot more items on the “I want” side than on the
“Thank you side.”  When our prayers are
answered how often is it written off as a coincidence?  Or do we think “Well of course God answered
my prayers, he’s God that’s what he’s supposed to do.” 
Don’t take God for granted! He doesn’t have to answer your
prayer, after all he’s God.

As Christ followers how often do we acknowledge the debt we owe to Jesus?  At some point every one of us was like the
lepers, we were in need of a new life, a life that we could not obtain on our
own, have you thanked God for that Gift?
If you have never received the
new life that is promised to us it is available for the asking, it is a gift
and a gift cannot be earned, or it wouldn’t be a gift.  But while you can’t earn a gift you have to
accept it. 
Have you accepted the gift of
grace?  The gift of Salvation?  The gift of eternal life?  If not than why not today?