Today’s message is about faith and how it is fueled by gratitude and how important it is that we appropriately express our gratitude.
There’s an old story about four brothers who went away to school and became successful professionals in their fields. Some years later they were chatting after having dinner together. They discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother who lived far away in another city.
The first said, “I had a big house built for Mama.”
The second said, “I had a hundred-thousand-dollar theater built into her house.
The third said, “I had my Mercedes dealer deliver her a new car.
The fourth said, “You know how Mama loved reading the Bible and you know she can’t read anymore because she can’t see very well. I met this preacher who told me about a parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took twenty preachers 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $10,000 a year to the church, but it was worth it. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it.”
The other brothers were impressed.
After the holidays Mom sent out her thank you notes. She wrote:
“Milton, the house you built is so huge, I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Thanks anyway.”
“Marvin, I am too old to travel. I stay home: I have my groceries delivered, so I never use the Mercedes. The thought was good. Thanks.”
“Michael, you gave me an expensive theater with surround sound. It could hold 50 people but all of my friends are dead, I’ve lost my hearing and I’m nearly blind. I’ll never use it. Thank you for the gesture just the same.”
“Dearest Melvin, you were the only son to have the good sense to give a little thought to your gift. The chicken was delicious. Thank you.” (From the internet, source unknown). It’s safe to say that the boys didn’t really know how to please their mama.
Let’s move on to the scripture lesson.
My clergy colleague, Jackie Johnson, says of today’s gospel story, “Jesus is getting snarky.” The context is that Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem, being watched at every turn by the crowd and by the Jewish leaders. His journey took him along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into one village, ten men who has leprosy met him. They called out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us !” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made healed.
Now there were 10 men, 9 Jews and a Samaritan. The Jewish men hurried off to the temple to have the priests confirm their healing, but the Samaritan came back. The Samaritan would not have worshiped at the temple, but rather on Mount Gerazim, so he would have been rejected by the Jewish leaders a a foreigner. Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jews. The Samaritan ran over to thank Jesus, and Jesus said, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Jesus is being a little sarcastic, but he also sees something in the Samaritan, the foreigner, that wasn’t happening for the Jewish lepers. He sees faith and that faith has been born of the Samaritan’s gratitude.
There is a story about a monastery in Portugal. The monastery is perched high on a 300-foot cliff. The only way the monastery can be reached is by a terrifying ride in a swaying basket pulled by a single rope by several strong monks.
One day an American tourist was about to ride up in the basket. However, he became nervous when noticed the rope was old and frayed. Timidly, he asked, “How often do you change the rope?” One of the monks replied, “Whenever it breaks.”
Many people treat faith like that. They don’t turn to faith until something breaks. But thank God, there are others for whom faith is a lifestyle, not a last resort. Interestingly, in the Greek translation, the world for healed also means saved. The Samaritan has not just been physically healed, he had been spiritually changed, and that change was expressed as gratitude.
One important factoring faith is gratitude. Faith and gratitude go hand in hand. Think about it. If you trust God and think about all the blessings in your life, you cannot help but have a profound sense of gratitude about what God has done in your life. Conversely, if you a person without a sense of gratitude for what God had done for you, you ought to examine your heart to see if God really does dwell there. Gratitude heals us. Scientific evidence even shows that the grateful live longer. The Samaritan had more than his body healed. Gratitude was the pathway to abundant grace.
Perhaps we should examine ourselves as to why we are not more grateful. Can our gratitude be seen in our daily life? Notice how the scripture story ends. Jesus says to the man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Jesus doesn’t praise the man for coming back and giving thanks. He doesn’t have to. He knows the man’s heart. The man is in tune with God’s will for his life. The man knows that God loves him. His life is a model of thankfulness. Jesus simply affirms that this man is a man of faith, and that is all that is necessary for this man to live a whole and complete life
The man has found grace. And so, can we.
A key part of our time today is about a faith that leads to gratitude and grace. That is why we are here today. That is what our music, our prayers, our offerings, every part of worship is about. It is our way of saying, “Thank you.” That is why worship is not optional for the Christian. It is what being a Christian is all about.
Native American Chief Dan George in his book, My Heart Soars, describes that kind of gratitude he saw in his father. He writes, ” I remember as a little boy, fishing with him up Indian River and I can still see him as the sun rose above the mountain top in the early morning…I can see him standing by the water’s edge with his arms raised above his head while he softly moaned, ‘Thank You. . . Thank You’. . It left a deep impression on my young mind”(Hancock House, 1974).
That’s why we are here. To say,” Thank You… Thank You… for healing us and loving us and watching over us.” It’s a statement of our character. It’s a statement of our faith. And it is a reason for our worship. I hope you will take time this day to stand before God and simply say, “Thank you. . .Thank you. . . Thank you.” Amen.