The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon - 13 October 2013 – Luke 17:11-19
St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville, VA
An attitude of gratitude …
Jesus is on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Here, he tells his disciples how important deep and authentic faith is. They would have known, and the hearers of Luke’s gospel would have known that lepers were outcasts from society. Just about any prolonged skin ailment would have rendered these men them ritually unclean, and labeled as “lepers.” It was also common thinking that folks believed that “leprosy” was infectious by touch, and thought they were possessed by evil spirits.
All ten acknowledge Jesus as who he is, “Master,” and so, they do have faith. They receive healing. The reason that Jesus sent them to the priests was so they could be restored to ritual purity, and restored to society. The priests would declare that they were now “clean” and free of the disease.
While all ten acknowledge Jesus as God, only one, a “Samaritan” a “foreigner” gives thanks to him. In some wonderful and strange way, the “Samaritan” has an attitude of gratitude that is deeper and richer than the other nine.
His awareness, and the growing gratitude in him are, presumably, what bring him to turn, to turn all the way around, 180 degrees, to offer thanks, eucharisto, praise, worship.
This praising and thanking and blessing and glorifying God runs all the way through Luke’s Gospel.
Shepherds in the fields 2:20 “the shepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen”…Simeon and Anna at the presentation in the Temple 2:28, 38. Witness of Jesus’ miracles 5:25…7:16…18:43… To the centurion at the foot of the cross 23:47…
So, we see here the proper response to any act of Grace and healing from God…deep gratitude…not coerced, not forced…but one that emerges from the softened heart, the changed person…the one who has experienced metanoia, who has found a way to turn 180 degrees!
And , so then there is Jesus’ response to this praise, to this eucharisto, this thanksgiving. “Your faith has healed you.” Wait, wasn’t he already healed? What is going on here? Is Jesus (or Luke) being redundant? Soter – soteriology – salvation – healing – salve – oil – 180 degrees… All ten are healed of leprosy but only one is wholly “made ... well” (– for the Greek word bears with it the idea of rescue from impending destruction or from superior powers. (180 degrees of Yvon Chouinard)…
This one had an "attitude of gratitude."
I've been wondering about this one man out of nine and then wondering about the other nine. Why did he have more of an attitude of gratitude than the other 9? Why did he return when the others didn't? Why didn't they return, or at least a few of them, when he returned? What about his background, upbringing, his own personal constitution, lead him to do such an audacious (but also quite logical...and common-sensical) thing to do? Even Jesus wonders aloud about the other nine, does he wonder with judgment, does he wonder with alarm, with anger, with sadness, with puzzlement? We don't know. But, we do know that Jesus wonders about those other nine.
Why did the Samaritan--the "foreigner"--return to thank Jesus for healing him of leprosy (Luke 17:11-19)? Fred Craddock says we shouldn't be surprised. "It is often the stranger in the church who sings heartily the hymns we have long left to the choir, who expresses gratitude for blessings we had not noticed, who listens attentively to the sermon we think we have already heard, who gets excited about our old Bible, and who becomes actively involved in acts of service to which we send small donations. Must it always be so?"
So, what about us? I, for one, probably spend 90% of my time just going along doing my errands, my tasks, my busy-ness, without really considering the gratitude that should really infuse my life. What if this were turned on its head? What if we spent the majority of our life cultivating an attitude of gratitude? What kind of life would this be? Would it cost us anything? No. Would it help us to have a softer heart and greater kindness and openness? Would it bring us healing, wholeness, and salvation? Perhaps.
Karl Barth was fond of saying that “the basic human response to God is gratitude – not fear and trembling, not guilt and dread, but thanksgiving.” “What else can we to what God gives us but stammer praise.”
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was Thank You, this would suffice. ~ Meister Eckhart.
All that we are, and all that we have are gifts to us, and even a life of gratitude and praise are gifts to us, if we choose to open up to them. “This is the day that the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”