May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God
Our Gospel reading this morning tells a tale that only Luke told. We have the story of the 10 lepers who were healed. But in this case of miraculous healing the healing is not the point of the story - its kind of a sideline.
The real story is the 1 man who turned back to Jesus and said thank you. He had what has become known as “an attitude of gratitude”. It is a fitting story as we celebrate Thanksgiving Sunday and we consider the many things we are thankful for.
The man who turned back was a Samaritan - an outcast and in the eyes of the Jews - a heretic. He was already on the margins the leprosy ensured he would be shunned. In the world in which Jesus lived and taught Leprosy was an umbrella term that included pretty much every skin disease. And it was not a doctor who determined if you were well or clean - it was the religious authorities - the priests.
This is why Jesus tells the lepers to go and show themselves to the priests - then they can be declared clean and reinstated into the life and worship of the community. But the man who turned back, the Samaritan would still not be welcome in the Jewish community.
So let us turn back to consider what happened in this story, to this man as he turned back to Jesus.
He turns back and praises God.
He is thankful. He recognizes that he has been given a gift and he gives thanks. He demonstrates a faith that verbalizes thanks for what God has done. But being grateful was not a precondition for the healing. Jesus healed all 10.
In our reading from Luke today we see mercy, thanks and praise. Deep words of prayer. These are at the core of our Great Thanksgiving as we enter into the time of the Eucharist - listen closely today to hear and feel these words.
The Samaritan alone turns back - a reorientation toward God. A redirection of life and faith. Faith is complete because it includes thankfulness. The attitude was changed from lament to thanksgiving.
I would like to consider faith and thankfulness today. I think sometimes we think of faith as a cause and effect - something we should believe or feel. As if you pray for something and either it happens or it does not - and if it does not do we question the depth of our faith or the “correctness” of our prayers - - did we do it right - were they fervent enough?
In this Gospel story Jesus is talking about the nature of faith - not the quantity. To have faith is to live it and to live it is to give thanks. It is a life of gratitude that is a life of faith. This is the grateful sort of faith that has made this man from Samaria truly and deeply well.
It turns out that the man from Samaria had the right attitude. Medicine and science have shown time and again that gratitude is good for you. It is good for your health and well being. For people who have gratitude as a permanent trait they have a health edge. Gratitude is a stress releaser, grateful people are more hopeful and there are links between gratitude and the immune system.
Good to hear on this Thanksgiving Sunday!
By Jesus’ definition gratitude and faith are closely related. But what if in fact they are the same thing? Faith is not something we have, it is something we do. To practice gratitude is to practice faith. To practice gratitude intentionally changes individuals but it also changes congregations. It can change the character of a congregation.
Do you think it is possible that the practice of gratitude might be an essential part of being human?
When Christians practice gratitude they come to worship as we have this morning - to give thanks and praise to God. Worship is at the heart of Christian life.
Luke has Jesus say - go on your way - and soon that is exactly what we will do. We will go on our way. Hopefully we will go on our way with a sense of gratitude - of thanksgiving.
So before you go…..
What are you thankful for today? What words of thanksgiving would you like to share with God? What are the words of thanksgiving that you need to share with those you love and who love you?
What is your praise this week?