the one where we show gratitude...
October 11, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from 10/9/2016

Text: Luke 17: 11-19

Grace and peace to y’all from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this morning we read another interesting story about Jesus. He and his disciples are still traveling around the area and they find themselves in a spot between Samaria and Galilee. An ‘in-between’ state. Sandwiched between the area that practiced the predominant faith of the time – Galilee – which was Jewish and the area that was a cousin of the Jewish faith, but seen as unclean in many respects – Samaria.

In the middle of those two areas there happened to be a leper colony within a village that Jesus and his disciples came upon.

Now, we are already seeing Jesus in an ‘awkward’ area, in-between two differing cultures and people. Within that area is a colony of those that neither wanted anything to do with. A colony of those afflicted with leprosy.

Leprosy is an infection that attacks the nervous system resulting in people not being able to feel and or lose their extremities because they cease to feel pain in those areas. How most experience those with leprosy (which is all but confined to tropical Africa and Asia) is that they develop pustules, deformities, lesions, and more across their skin, their hands, and their face. For a faith and culture at the time that centered on ‘cleanliness’; Leprosy was about as unclean as you could get.

So, Jesus meets 10 individuals with Leprosy he tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they depart they are cleansed. One of those men – who was a Samaritan – prostrates himself before Jesus in thanks and gratefulness. Jesus remarks that the other nine are absent and that this man’s faith has made him well.

First thing I wanted to point out in this is that all 10 individuals who had leprosy were healed. They were healed because they followed Jesus’ command and were obedient to him. He directed them to go and show themselves to the priests. They went. They were healed.

This story isn’t so much about ‘those ungrateful ones who didn’t get healed’ as it is about being grateful for the blessings that God does bestow upon us.

If we can fault those nine for anything in our gospel this morning – after they’ve followed Jesus’ command to show themselves to the priests – is that they don’t show gratitude for what has been done to them.

Which makes it even more interesting and radical that the one who does show gratitude to Jesus is the one who is specifically stated to not be of the Jewish faith. Again, the author of Luke’s gospel uses a story of Jesus’ ministry to further turn that mirror on the people and followers in the faith.

How quickly we take for granted the good things in our life. Or in fact – how quickly we take for granted many and all things in our life.

I once knew someone who whenever I asked her how she was doing, her response was always, “I’m upright and vertical and grateful for that.” It always seemed like a pretty strange answer to give. But, it always made me think – as stressful and frustrating as the day could be I’m still grateful to be – like her – upright and vertical each day.

Each of those 10 lepers were cleansed. I imagine that they too were overjoyed in their healing – who wouldn’t be. I’m sure they went and told their friends, family, and all who they saw that day and in the future. Maybe some took it for granted. There really isn’t any way for us to know. What we do know is that one of those 10. The one who was singled out as even more different than the others – a Samaritan – was the one who chose to give voice to the thankfulness he felt.

He turns to give thanks to Jesus and to give thanks to God.

He gives the thankfulness and gratitude voice. He chooses to express that in a way that the other nine do not. He looks at his life and what has immediately been done and cannot keep in that voice.

He gives thanks. He chooses.

He could have chosen – like us – to give voice to all sorts of emotion that day. For we too have opportunity to choose and live into things like fear, anger, or sadness. We too have the choice to live into frustration, annoyance, or regret. We have the choice to live into the emotions we have.

Sometimes it is far easier to choose one of those other emotions. Sometimes the most difficult thing we can think of doing is choosing gratitude.

When confronted with anger, we may choose to retaliate and strike back. It’s difficult to say, “I’m grateful of your passion on this topic.” Seeking empathy can be difficult. When confronted by setback, it is easy to choose frustration – either with yourself or with those involved in your work. It’s difficult to say, “I’m grateful for what I’ve learned through even this.”

Living in a life of gratitude and thankfulness for what we have been given by God – not taking for granted the life which we live – is what Christ models for us and lifts up in this story about the 10 lepers. This Samaritan, turns to Jesus and gives thanks for what God has done for him. Jesus’ response is that he has been made well. He has – according to the Greek – been saved. His faith has saved him.

It is all mixed and rolled up – faith, thankfulness, gratitude.

Yet, sometimes it’s still really difficult. I’m not advocating that one should always just be happy and move past all those other emotions. Sometimes we aren’t in the position quite yet – because of grief or loss or hurt – to give voice to the gratitude of our lives. Sometimes it is difficult to live into gratefulness when everything around us seems to be about accusations, excuses, degrading words and phrases, venting anger within our culture. Written in headlines, from the lips of the ones most hurt in society, tapped out on keys through Facebook, twitter, and Instagram.

Jesus isn’t commanding us to be thankful or to be grateful for what God has done. Nowhere does Jesus say, “You better gives thanks… or else.” Jesus doesn’t command us, but instead invites us into this life of thanks and gratitude. Jesus invites us to live our lives like the Samaritan who turns towards Jesus. If you’re not there yet? It’s OK. Jesus understands. God never stops inviting us into living in gratefulness. In the meantime? We are surrounded by this community of faith that will and can give thanks – through word, song, and prayer – while you are not able.

God invites us – continuously and always. Invites us into giving voice to gratefulness and thankfulness.

Giving voice to what God has done in and through Jesus for us.

Giving voice to that emotion that at times seems so distant.

Giving voice to that feeling that at times seems like it is most desperately needed in our world.

Choosing to live into the faith that God has invited us into. Amen.

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