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Reference: Luke 17:11-19
Format: All-age message
Season: Ordinary time

Download the script here

The Active Voice

LEADER: (in your own words) This is a question for those who understand grammar. Can anyone explain the difference between a passive voice and an active voice? [Get responses from the congregation, probably from adults. Ask for examples. One example you could give yourself is the difference between “God loves you” (active) and “You are loved” (passive)]

If you’ve ever run a grammar check on your word-processor, one of the comments the computer often makes is that the active voice is preferred to the passive voice. Why should that be? Listen to these two different diary entries and then I’m going to ask you an unexpected question.

READER 1: I was woken at 7.30 this morning and given bacon and eggs for breakfast. The bus arrived early. A twenty pound note was all I had, but I was told “Don’t worry” and handed a pocketful of change. At school it was maths and history all morning. We were taught about drawing graphs and the first world war. When the bell rang for lunch, I found I’d been given tuna sandwiches, which are my favourite. It was netball in the afternoon. In the first five minutes the ball was passed to me several times, and twice it went into the net. I was given a lift home in a posh car, which meant there was time for an episode of Friends on the DVD which I had been given for my birthday. Tonight we were treated to a meal at the Noodle House, where I was brought a delicious plate of Kung Po Chicken. Back home I had a phone call – I’ve been invited to a party tomorrow. It’s been a lovely day.

READER 2: My alarm clock woke me at 7.30 this morning and Mum cooked me bacon and eggs for breakfast. The bus-driver pulled up early. I had to give him a twenty pound note, but he told me not to worry and handed me a pocketful of change. The morning timetable at school was maths and history. Mrs Grant showed us how to draw graphs and Mr Robinson told us about the first world war. When someone rang the bell for lunch, I found Mum had given me tuna sandwiches – my favourite. We played netball in the afternoon. Several times in the first five minutes my team-mates passed me the ball and twice I managed to throw it into the net. Melissa’s dad gave me a lift home in his posh car, which meant I had time to watch an episode of Friends on the DVD which Grandma had given me for my birthday. Tonight, Dad treated us to a meal at the Noodle House. The waitress brought me a delicious plate of Kung Po Chicken. Back home Ashley rang and invited me to a party tomorrow. I’ve had a lovely day.

LEADER: Here is the unexpected question. Which of those two people do you think would be most likely to have said, “Thank you”? [Get congregation response, hopefully they will answer the second person. Find out why they think that. Hopefully they will have noticed that for the first person there are no others involved in her day – things just happen. For the second person, there are lots of people mentioned – she is aware of those who do things for her. If there is time, you may want to ask for both diary entries to be read again.]

(in your own words) The passive voice implies that things just happen without any human intervention. Buses just arrive. Food magically appears on the table. Gifts come out of nowhere. The active voice reminds us that things happen because people do things. Here are another two diary entries.

READER 1: A miracle has happened! I’ve had leprosy for years, but today I was told to go and show myself to the priest and on the way I was healed! Just like that! I was healed!

READER 2: Jesus has performed a miracle! I’ve had leprosy for years, but today Jesus told me to go and show myself to the priest and on the way God healed me! Just like that. God healed me. Thank you, Jesus! Praise God!

LEADER: (in your own words) The way Luke tells the story is that Jesus sent ten lepers to show themselves to the priest and on the way “they were cleansed”. Luke uses the passive voice, and that is how nine of the lepers thought of their cure. They were cleansed. Only one leper thought of it differently. God cleansed me. He was the one who came back to Jesus to say thank you.

How do you think of your life? Is it just a series of things happening one after another? Or do you realise that God is actively doing things with you and for you? And how often do you say thank you?

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