Got a Minute? Two Men Kneeling Together

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

Some years ago, World magazine recounted a story told by the pastor of an English church. The pastor was surprised to see two men kneeling together at the altar: one an ex-convict and the other the judge who had sent him to prison for seven years.

Later, the judge asked the pastor if he had seen who was kneeling to pray beside him. The pastor said yes. Then the judge said, “What a miracle of grace!” The pastor agreed and referred to the criminal’s conversion. The judge replied, “But I was not referring to him; I was thinking of myself…. That man knew how much he needed Christ to save him from his sins. But look at me. I was taught from childhood to live as a gentleman, to keep my word, to say my prayers, to go to church…, and eventually became a judge. Pastor, nothing but the grace of God could have caused me to admit that I was a sinner on a level with that convict….”[1]

I quote, “Religion is grace; ethics is gratitude.”[2] We all need what Jesus alone can do in our lives.

Smiley Mudd


[1] From In Other Words, World, 3/1/97, p. 26.

[2] Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Fourth Edition (Zondervan, 1981, 1993, 2003, 2014).

Got a Minute? One Man Came Back.

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

One last thought on the story of the healing of ten lepers (see Luke 17): The one man who came back and fell at Jesus’ feet praising God and giving thanks was a Samaritan, one unlikely to thank a Judean. Yet, he came back to give thanks. Why?

Jesus had done something for him that no one else could do. His healing was basically impossible; and yet, Jesus healed him. Jesus had also given him back something that he thought he had lost forever: his health, community, and a spirit of hope for the future. In some sense, Jesus had also considered him “someone,” when all others had called him no one. To be diagnosed with leprosy in his time was a sentence of quarantine from society for as long as the disease continued, usually for all life ahead. Yet this man had been given a shot at a future.

This is what Jesus does: restore life, give a new community, and bring into the very family of God. That is cause for thanksgiving!

Smiley Mudd

Got a Minute? “Get Three Chairs for the Lutherans.”

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

Three Lutheran pastors were invited to attend a special service of Christian unity at a neighboring Catholic church. They arrived late and discovered that all the seats were already filled. The priest noticed his friends standing in the back, so he whispered to the altar boy, “Please get three chairs for our Lutheran brethren.” The boy did not hear him the first time, so the father repeated simply, “Three chairs for the Lutherans.”

The boy thought this was rather strange, but he was an obedient altar boy, so he stepped up to the altar and yelled, “Three cheers for the Lutherans!” Well, I am not sure even the Second Vatican Council got quite that carried away on Christian unity.

President Biden called for unity in his inaugural address, then on his first day in office, he decreed some radical and contested positions of the political left. What does “unity” mean to him? Christian unity comes as we kneel together at the foot of the cross, recognizing how greatly we all need what only Jesus can do in our lives and in His world.

Smiley Mudd

Got a Minute? Nine Did Not Return, Part 3.

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

“Where are the other nine?” This is a question Jesus asked after He healed ten lepers one day (See Luke 17). Only one of the men had returned to give thanks to God. The man was a Samaritan, who usually had no dealings with the Judeans.

Where were they, indeed? Were they so caught up with their new blessing of healing that they forgot the one who healed them? Were they were so preoccupied with obedience to His order to show themselves to the priest that they forgot about the grace that healed them? Or perhaps they were so caught up with their new future that they forgot to be thankful for their past and present.

As a young man with a renewed relationship with God, I began to remember how people had blessed my life at critical moments. One of those people was a coach named Joe Karp. He showed me special kindness, and knowingly or not he kept me from self-destructing in my senior year of high school. God bless you, Coach Karp. It’s never too late to be thankful.

Smiley Mudd

Got a Minute? Nine Did Not Return, Part 2.

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

When Jesus healed ten lepers one time, only one of the men came running back to thank Him. The other nine did not (See Luke 17). Jesus even asked, “Where are the other nine?” Where, indeed? I wondered yesterday if perhaps they were so caught up with their immediate blessing that they forgot the one who had blessed them with healing.

Or maybe they were so preoccupied with obedience to the command, they forgot the grace that Jesus had shown them. This is more common that it sounds. The fundamental question about our relationship with God is this: is it based primarily on what we do for Him or on what He has done for us? Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not out of you, the gift is from God; not out of works, in order that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, FJV). Our earnest obedience to God’s truth comes from grateful love for what He has freely given, not to earn or merit that favor to begin with.

Smiley Mudd

Got a Minute? Nine Did Not Return, Part 1

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

Ten lepers approached Jesus as he came into a small village and cried out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He healed them all (read the whole story in Luke 17). When only one came back to thank Him, Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine? Were not all healed?” The expected answer is “Yes, in fact, they were.”

Why did the other nine not come back? Well, maybe they were so preoccupied with the blessing that they temporarily forgot the one who blessed them. This is a common human problem. Yesterday, I came out of my study at our church’s facility to find I had a flat tire on my nearly vintage van (“It’s hard to be cool in a minivan.”) I wanted to complain (and I did to myself), but then I thought, “How many of my Christian family around the world must walk everywhere they go?” My flat tire on an otherwise functional vehicle is a “first-world problem.” I am still very blessed, and I thank God and my country for such relative prosperity.

Smiley Mudd

Got a Minute? Only One Man Came Back.

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

Near the end of His teaching ministry, Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem. He came to a little village along the border between Galilee and Samaria. Ten lepers met him as he entered there. Lepers at that time had to hold their hand in front of their face and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” if anyone came near them. They were completely quarantined from the rest of society.

These men stood at a distance from Jesus and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13, FJV). He told them to do what someone would do if he had been cleansed of such a disease. “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They obeyed, and as they went, they were healed!

One of the men turned back and ran up to Jesus, praising God loudly. He fell at his feet and gave thanks. He was a Samaritan—usually completely at odds with Jewish folks. Jesus wondered aloud where the other nine men were and why only one man, and a Samaritan at that, came back to give thanks. Think about that today.

Smiley Mudd

Got a Minute? “Out of One Man …”

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

In his missionary travels, the Apostle Paul was left in Athens, Greece, to wait for his missionary partners. As he looked around, what bugged him most was that the city was “full of idols” (See Acts 17:16ff). So, he began to engage folks in the local Jewish synagogue and in the marketplace regarding Jesus and His resurrection. Some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers heard him and then brought him to the local philosophers’ club, the Areopagus.

In his speech there, he said that God “… made out of one man every nationality of people to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined fixed times and fixed boundaries of their dwelling in order that they may seek God, … even though He is not far from each one of us” Acts 17:26-27, FJV, my emphasis).

On this Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I am thinking about the implications of “He made out of one man every nationality of people ….” In creation and in Christ, we have a unity that rises above race and nationality.

Smiley Mudd

Got a Minute? Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

Today is a special day for our church and for many others across the nation. Today, we affirm the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death. Human life should be welcomed, celebrated, and protected. In 1973, the Supreme Court overturned all meaningful restrictions on elective abortion. That decision has been used to justify the choice to deprive over sixty million American unborn children of the status of “persons,” without a “right to life.”

Tomorrow, we pause to remember the contribution toward civil rights made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This fits well with a recognition of the sanctity of every human life of whatever ethnic background, judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” as Dr. King hoped.

Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you [LORD] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” We want everyone to know that, too.

Smiley Mudd

Got a Minute? “Cut it down, … and forget it.”

Hi, friends in exile, got a minute?

A man maned Jim Pritchard told, “After the Civil War, in an incident recounted by Charles Flood in Lee: The Last Years, Robert E. Lee visited a woman who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her home. There she cried bitterly that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Union artillery fire. She waited for Lee to condemn the North or at least sympathize with her loss. But Lee—who knew the horrors of war and had suffered the pain of defeat—said, ‘Cut it down, my dear madam, and then forget it.’”

Nowadays, we seem to want to build monuments to such destroyed trees. Victimization—finding a way to define oneself as hurt and mistreated to get something out of others—is a way of life for some people. God offers a better way: forgiveness and reconciliation. Do we have any trees that we need to cut down and forget today? Do we need to walk away, leave the hurt behind, and go forward under the grace, power, and love of God?

Smiley Mudd