Sermon 10/9/2016 “Attitude of gratitude”

Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Church of the Resurrection
Text: Luke 17:11-19
Day: 21Pentecost, Proper 23, Year C

“Attitude of gratitude”

Stirs1aLast week we heard a message about faith. Jesus told his disciples that we only need a little bit of faith, that what is required of us is that we put our faith into action. Today we hear about ten people who acted in faith, ten unlikely people: ten lepers.

The crux of today’s lesson isn’t about faith, though. Today’s lesson is about attitude, an attitude of gratitude as we go about acting on our faith. The point of today’s lesson is that being grateful to God is essential.

Our gospel lesson today tells of ten people who had banded together and formed a community. We don’t know much about them, except that they had some significant differences among them, so theirs wasn’t a community of like-minded people, not an affinity group. One of them was a Samaritan, a person the other nine would normally have shunned. But here they were, all ten, molded into a community of convenience, banded together because they had leprosy.

Leprosy is a terrible disease, especially way back in Jesus’ day. A leper’s body parts would fall off: fingers, toes, noses, ET cetera. That a scary disease: people who didn’t have leprosy didn’t want lepers anywhere near them. So there were rules about lepers. For instance, if you were a leper you had to remove yourself, from your family, from your community, and live apart from healthy folks.

So it’s no wonder that these lepers had banded together, even though one of them was a Samaritan, who worshiped differently than they thought was kosher. At some point, though, these ten had heard about Jesus and about his compassion and about his ability to physically heal people. And they came up with a bold idea, an audacious vision: they would approach Jesus and ask Jesus to heal them. Except they were lepers, and couldn’t physically get close to Jesus, so they couldn’t carry out their vision, could they?

I wonder how long these ten took to come up with their survival plan. I wonder how long they took to gather the courage to carry out their plan to approach Jesus. We just don’t know. All we know is these ten came near to Jesus and threw themselves on Jesus’ mercy.

I wonder if there were more than ten people originally in this group of lepers, or if there had been only these ten—who all stuck together despite their situation and carried out their bold vision. We don’t know that, either, but I would like to think that there were only these ten, and that all chose to remain together.

You know this story; you know the outcome. Jesus told the ten lepers to go to the temple and show the priest there that they were no longer lepers. That’s what lepers had to do then, to get certification of their healing and permission to rejoin their families and friends, permission to worship God in the Temple. They needed the priest to declare them “unshunned.”

Our lesson tells us the ten were healed on their way to see the priest. In other words, they we not healed when then set off in faith to go to the priest. They had to begin to act before they knew the outcome of the healing.

I wonder how long the ten took to do what Jesus had asked them to do. Did they set off at once, no questions asked? Did they set off right away, without grumbling or murmuring or complaint? Or did they talk things over for a while, discuss all of these things at three or four Forums?

I’ll bet they talked things over. A lot. That’s human nature. “Jesus wants us to do WHAT? Jesus wants us to show the priests we’ve been healed, but we haven’t been healed.”

Eventually they got to what I call the “interim answer” (and I’ve suggested the interim answer to you before). These ten acted AS IF they had already been healed. They acted in faith that by doing what Jesus told them they would actually be healed. The ten acted as a unit; they set off together to see the priests, acting in faith that by doing what Jesus had told them to do they would survive, body parts restored, restored to new life here on this earth. So they set off to see the priests.

And yet, one of them turned back to Jesus, disobeying Jesus—in a way. When he recognized that Jesus HAD healed him on the way to see the priest, he turned back and thanked God for what Jesus had done.

Instead of scolding the man for not doing as instructed, Jesus praised the man’s faith, praised the man’s initiative, and wondered why the other nine hadn’t shown an attitude of gratitude. Surely, they too were grateful; they, too, had been healed when they acted in faith and stepped into action for their healing.

From this we learn that putting our faith into action heals us, and that an attitude of gratitude is required.

Now I know that some of you have approached Jesus for physical healing and you haven’t yet been healed physically or even been given a divine message about what actions to take to receive healing. This is a tough one, so tough our diseased situations sometimes lead us to thinking “I must not have enough faith because Jesus hasn’t healed me.”

The thing about this healing business is that we, ourselves, cannot heal ourselves. I know that Jesus often told people he physically cured, “Go, your faith has made you well.” But we need to remember that healing is up to God. We can’t make God heal us here in this life any more than we can win the lottery by faith alone. We have to buy a ticket. And even then we have to trust that, should someone else win, our loss was for a greater purpose, a greater good, even if we cannot perceive what that greater outcome could possibly have been. All we can do is act “in faith,” and act “as if” we have been healed.

And attitude really does matter, especially an attitude of gratitude. We all get diseases. We all get old and eventually die. But aren’t we grateful for life, no matter what life brings our way?

There’s a sign at the entrance to my gym that says, “The difference between who you are and who you aspire to be is what you do.” This sign INspires me on the way in, and mocks me on the way out. “The difference between who you are and who you aspire to be is what you do.”

If you aspire to be a disciple of Jesus, do what Jesus says (no matter how hard the instruction). If you aspire to be a community of Jesus followers, follow Jesus together (no matter what obstacles present themselves). In either case we need to periodically approach Jesus, ask God for healing advice, then get up, as necessary, and carry out what Jesus has advised us to do. Above all, we need to approach God with an attitude of gratitude.

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