THANK YOU! – October 13, 2019 – Pastor Donna Doutt - Luke 17:11-19
We’re big on birdwatching at our house. As fall approaches, we know the importance of ramping up the variety of foods we offer our birds as they prepare their little bodies for winter. So the other day, we were at Walmart in search of supplemental foods for our multiple birdfeeders. Not being really familiar with the Walmart at Chippewa (we usually go to Monaca), I asked a clerk to point me in the right direction. Of course, what we needed was way off in the back of the store. Get ready for this…..behind the Christmas decorations!
Holy cow! We just put Labor Day behind us…haven’t even had Halloween yet…nor Thanksgiving….and their already promoting Christmas!
What’s the rush? Let’s take these holidays one at a time. Let’s polish off those peanut butter cups from Halloween before we set that Christmas fruitcake out!
But whether we like it or not, all those (what I consider to be) winter holidays are just around the corner. All Saints day is only a few weeks away, then we steam roll into Thanksgiving.
In my round-about way of thinking…and talking about giving thanks…this brings me to our scripture today about Jesus and the ten lepers. Who has heard this scripture before? Who remembers this story? If you missed it somehow, it IS easy to miss because we only find it the Gospel of Luke. No other Gospel shares this story.
Once again, we’ve got those dreaded Samarians in the story. Once again, Jesus chose a route that made it likely that he WOULD encounter Samaritans, and once again Luke’s account has to do with the tension between Jews and Samaritans.
You know, even though the Samaritans were condemned by the Jews, they probably had as much pure Jewish blood as the Jews who later returned from the Babylonian exile. But just as today, many families have their squabbling factions started by small slights and hurts, so it is with the Samaritans.
The story of both Israel’s and Samaria’s failures in keeping to the way of Yahweh is partly told in Chapter 17 of the Second Book of Kings (why don’t you take the time to look that up this week?) Chapter 17 of the Second Kings. There, too, the unknown author tells how the king of Assyria sent a priest from among the exiles to teach the Samaritans how to worship God after an attack by lions was attributed to their failure to worship the God of the land. Second Kings recounts how worship of Yahweh was mixed with the worship of strange gods.
When Cyrus permitted the Jews to return from the Babylonian exile, the Samaritans were ready to welcome them back. The exiles, however, despised the Samaritans as renegades. In the book of Ezra, when the Samaritans wanted to join in rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, they were told their help wasn’t needed or wanted.
That rejection started a chain of political hostility and opposition that continued for centuries.
Our scriptures opens the story: “Luke 17:11-19 The Message (MSG)
11-13 It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14-16 Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.”
17-19 Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?”
It’s easy to see why Jesus would ask, “Where are the nine?”
He was amazed at their lack of gratitude. But why did he call the one man who did return a “foreigner?” Luke singles out the fact that was a Samaritan. That means that he and Jesus were divided by a cultural wall that was virtually impenetrable. In fact, it was said to be unlawful for a Jew even to associate with a “foreigner.” Yet Jesus openly violated that taboo as he marveled at the Samaritans’ thankful heart.
In this narrative of the healing of the ten lepers, the actual healing is almost a sideline event. After all, this is what Jesus does! His compassion is boundless. That he healed these ten is NOT an extraordinary action.
We don’t know where nine of the ten go, but we do know that this one, the Samaritan, turns around, comes back and prostrates himself at Jesus feet and gives thanks. THANK YOU JESUS!
Then Jesus points out the elephant in the room…“Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?”
Just like a text or email, we see these questions asked on a page, and we don’t know the inflection in Jesus’ voice.
Was he incredulous? “What? There were ten of you and now only you come back to glorify God with your appreciation?”
Was he frustrated? “Do you mean to tell me that of the ten of you, you’re the only one who came back to give thanks?”
Was he sad, disappointed, and discouraged at their lack of appreciation? “Gosh oh golly! I healed ten. Why couldn’t the rest of them show a little appreciation for what I did for them?”
I don’t think his inflection was any of these things. Because Jesus spoke with a certainty and confidence of assurance that was directed to him straight from his father God almighty! This was life as he experienced it. That’s why he was here to present us with these lessons.
What this story is really telling us is that the one who was most unlikely…the one who was a double outcast…first because he was a leper and then second, because he was a Samaritan… was the only one who was thankful and embraced by God’s grace. We know this because Jesus told him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”
The other nine probably went just la-la-la-ing on through life. Perhaps thinking, “I deserved to be healed. It’s a good thing I ran into that guy Jesus that everyone is talking about!” They may have thought their suffering had entitled them to this miracle.
Jesus is teaching us about the nature of faith. To “have faith” is to live it, and to live it is to give thanks. It is living a life of gratitude that constitutes living a life of faith.
One might also say, in fact, that “faith” and “gratitude” are two words for the same thing: to practice gratitude is to practice faith. If faith is not something we have, but something we do – something we live – then in living we express our complete trust in God. When we practice gratitude, we find that faith is giving in abundance.This very last line says it all… “Your faith has healed and saved you.”
So back to those Christmas decorations out before we’ve even carved out our first jack-o-lantern…why do we have to have a season of “thanks-giving?” We should be giving thanks every day for what God has done in our lives!
Remember a while back when I preached on praying and suggested that a simple prayer could just be, “thank you, thank you, thank you?” I mean that sincerely.
To practice gratitude intentionally, as did the single Samaritan, changes our individual life. If we, as a congregation, can worship together with an attitude of gratitude, rejoicing in our communal opportunity to have a roof over our heads and be in one worship, not just to “get something out of it,” but to give thanks and praise to God, then we can realize the reality of, “Your faith has healed and saved you.”
Kimberly Bracken Long, editor of “Call to Worship” magazine writes that by giving thanks, we are transformed. “Stewardship is transformed from fundraising to the glad gratitude of joyful givers. The mission of the church changes from ethical duty to the work of grateful hands and hearts. Prayer includes not only our intercessions and supplications, but also our thanksgivings at the table.”
When I was a teenager, I remember one of my favorite duos, Sam & Dave, had a hit record. The lyrics went like this:
“ You didn't have to love me like you did, But you did, but you did, And I thank you!”
We could sing that every day of our lives…WITH MEANING! Do we deserve God’s love? I know we sometimes don’t feel like we do, or we may question ourselves. But just remember…He didn’t have to love us like He did, but He did, yes He did. THANK YOU!
Each week we sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” Thank you!
On the first of every month when we share Christ’s Table, we say:
“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise. It is right, and a good and joyful things, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” Thank you!
As we go on our way, we rejoice and give thanks for His faithfulness to us, for in giving thanks in all things, we find that God, indeed is in all things.
“Get up. Go on your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”
 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson
 Long, Kimberly Bracken. Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 4. P.164
 Ibid, p. 168.
 Songwriters: David Porter / Isaac Hayes. I Thank You lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc