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Giving Thanks!

Date: 
November 20, 2016
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
Psalm 136.1-9, 26 Luke 17.11-18

GIVING THANKS!

THEME: Jesus uses an “outsider” to teach us “insiders” something about gratitude.

INTRODUCTION

  • Last Sunday you helped me to create a great sermon… with your help we talked together about how full our buckets are – how very blessed we are…
  • One of the questions I asked was this: How often do you really stop to count your blessings and to give thanks to God?
  • “In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
  • Meister Eckhart wrote, “If in your lifetime the only prayer you offer is ‘Thanks,’ that would suffice.”

I – THE STORY (LUKE 17:11-19)

  • Only in the Gospel of Luke do we find the story of the healing of the 10 lepers… there’s a

     good reason for that which I will share with you in a few

     minutes…

  • To be a leper in biblical times was to be cursed by God… leprosy was thought to be a sign

     of God’s judgment… a punishment for sin… in Jesus’ day,

     leprosy was feared more than the Ebola virus is today.

  • Today leprosy refers to a very specific disease (Hanson’s Disease) which eats away at a person’s flesh…
  • In biblical times leprosy referred to just about any skin disease or condition - some very minor, some that greatly disfigured an individual, and others that could be fatal…
  • Jewish tradition had very clear rules for lepers… in the Law it was written: the person who has leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his/her head be disheveled; and they shall cover their upper lip and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” They shall remain unclean as long as they have the disease. They shall live alone; their dwelling shall be outside the camp…
  • Lepers were not allowed to enter the village… and certainly they were never allowed to worship in the temple…
  • Should their skin condition clear up, the law required that they show themselves to a priest to be declared “clean.” The declaration by a priest was followed by a very strict cleansing ritual that had to be obeyed to the letter.
  • Their common misery often drew lepers together into small groups or colonies like the

group of ten that we encounter in today’s gospel reading… their common misfortune broke

     down the barriers that might otherwise have kept them

     apart…

  • In biblical times a faithful Jew would have nothing to do with a Samaritan… their cultures made them enemies… but because they suffered from leprosy, they forgot that they were Jews and Samaritans and they traveled together…
  • William Barclay points out that if a flood surges over a piece of a country and the wild animals congregate for safety on some little bit of higher ground, you will find standing peacefully together animals who are natural enemies and who at any other time would have done their best to kill one another…
  • So it was with the lepers… because of their common tragedy, they stood together in spite of their differences
  • They had to keep their distance from everyone else… to be a leper was not only to suffer physical pain, but psychological, social, and spiritual pain as well… the disease was bad, but the social punishment – the stigma attached to the disease - was almost worse…
  • Lepers were feared and avoided by everyone, even family… What must it be like to never be touched? …To never be hugged? …To be kept at a distance?
  • From a distance the ten lepers recognized Jesus… they knew that he was the one many

called “Master”… and keeping their distance, as the law prescribed, they shouted, “Jesus,

Master, have mercy on us!”

  • They were not begging for alms… they were begging for a miracle…
  • They called to him with a common longing to be healed…
  • Jesus asked them to step out in faith and they all responded with the faith Jesus requested of them…
    • Jesus said to them, “Go and show yourself to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean…
    • All the symptoms of their disease were gone by the time they reached the priests…
    • Nine of them returned immediately to “business as usual”… the end of their crisis brought an end to their community… they quickly went their separate ways…
    • But one of them realized that (1) he had been healed; (2) God deserved praise; and (3) Jesus deserved to be thanked…
    • So he did a u-turn in the road and fell at the feet of Jesus, giving him thanks and praise…
    • “And he was a Samaritan!”… And that’s why Luke tells us this story!
  • This tenth leper was an “outsider” not only because of his leprosy, but also because of his nationality… he was a Samaritan, not a Jew…
  • Luke has a soft spot in his heart for “outsiders”… Matthew, Mark and John do not share Luke’s compassion for “outsiders.”
  • But Luke wants us to know that there’s a wideness in God’s mercy… a wideness that includes Gentiles, like this leprous Samaritan, as well as Jews; women as well as men; the poor as well as the rich; both the clean and the un-clean; both the sinner and the saint…
  • Luke wants us to know that the blessings of God are not reserved for “insiders” – the blessings of God are for all people - everyone… God is inclusive!
  • Luke wants us to know that Jesus breaks down the walls and the barriers that separate people and reaches out to those in need no matter who they are… Jesus goes to wherever he is needed and touches all those who need to be touched, even the untouchables…
  • Sometimes as followers of Christ and faithful church members we have the notion that we are “insiders” who deserve God’s special blessings… more blessings than those whose faith is weak… greater blessings than those who do not go to church…

II – GRATITUDE

  • Jesus uses an “outsider” to teach “insiders” something about gratitude…
    • Sometimes “insiders” think that their blessings are merited, well deserved, hard earned, and even greatly expected as a reward for their faith…
  • Assuming that the other nine who were made clean were “insiders” – faithful Jews – may explain why they never returned to praise God or to thank Jesus… they viewed their healing as being deserved and expected… after all, they were God’s chosen people - yet they received God’s gift of healing with an ungrateful spirit…
  • Many of us receive God’s blessings with an ungrateful spirit… many of us take God’s blessing for granted… we have been given so much, so much in fact that we may even expect more - but how often do we give thanks to the Giver?
  • It is always good to give thanks to God… it is never too early for Thanksgiving… you really don’t need to wait until late November…
  • God’s blessings come from God’s grace – God’s unmerited love... God blesses us – all of us – because God loves us, not because we have earned the blessing or deserve to be blessed…
  • “Gratitude has always been closely allied to realizing the presence of God.” <Killinger>
  • The grateful leper, the one who was a Samaritan, realized that he had been touched by God… His gratitude was genuine…
  • He knew that he had been touched – powerfully touched and blessed – by the creative power of God… There was no doubt in his mind about the source of his healing…
  • All ten of the lepers were healed, but only one of them was made whole!
  • The word “whole” means complete… nothing missing…
  • We are not “whole” until we recognize the presence of God in our lives…
  • We are not “whole” until we know that we have been touched – been blessed – by God…
  • We are not “whole” until we come to God with genuine gratitude for all that we have received from his hand…
  • “It is only with gratitude that life become rich!” <Bonhoeffer>

CONCLUSION

  • Thankfulness is more than an act of good manners… it should be a major component of our lives…
  • How often do you pause to thank God for your blessings?
  • When was the last time you thanked God, really thanked God, for your life – all of it, the good and the not so good?
  • It is never too early or too often for Thanksgiving!

SERMON SEEDS

  • DAILY STUDY BIBLE (LUKE) – William Barclay
  • LIFE APPLICATION BIBLE COMMENTARY (LUKE) – published by Tyndale
  • Lectionary Resources from –
  • A DEVOTIONAL GUIDE TO LUKE – THE GOSPEL OF CONTAGIOUS JOY by John Killinger

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