If I could give one quality gift to each of my family members and to all my friends, it would be the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask that God make you grateful. Gratitude is the central virtue of the Christian faith. Over my 40+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, mean, or vengeful.
One Returned in Gratitidue
In the story of the ten Lepers found in Luke 17:11-19, all ten are healed but only one, an outsider, returned in gratitude. Lepers, because of their condition, were required to stay outside the boundaries of the community. They were socially, religiously, and physically isolated from family, friends, church, and all that was important to them. They had no quality relationships outside of the leper community. Not only were they isolated, they had the responsibility of announcing their condition to everyone who came close. Then into their lives walked Jesus. They cried out, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us.”
Jesus gave them the direction, to “Go show yourselves to the priest.” What I think is interesting here is Jesus gave each of them what was needed for healing and wholeness. His direction was an act of grace. It was on their way to see the priest that all of them were healed. All 10 were healed and given new lives. All ten received the same treatment, the same grace. But only one returned in gratitude.
I believe, without any stretching of the truth, that leprosy in the scripture is a symbol of our fallen human condition before God. We are sinners, disconnected from God, one another, and our communities. In our condition, we do not have the capacity within ourselves to reconnect with God and to one another. Our hope is that Jesus, the embodiment of God’s grace, comes into our lives. Just as with the lepers, our relationships are restored, God’s peace takes root deep within us, and we live new lives. New lives in Christ.
Are We Grateful?
In the story, ten lepers are healed but one returned in gratitude and praise.
I confess that I have always thought of the church as the community of the grateful. We gather in response to God’s grace to offer ourselves in gratitude for what God has done, not only for us, but for all people. We connect with people in our communities in response to God connecting with us in Jesus. Recently, I have wondered what it is like in the churches in the Capitol Area South District. All of us have been offered new life by God’s grace. My question is, “Are we grateful?”
There is a story told about Rudyard Kipling. He was being interviewed by a reporter who said, “Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make for your words amounts to over $100 a word. The reporter reached into his pocket, pulled out a $100 bill, gave it to Kipling and said, “Here is a $100. Now give me one of our $100 words.” Kipling looked at the money. Put it in his pocket. Looked at the reporter and said, “Thanks!”
There were ten healed. Ten who returned to the world from which they had been isolated. Ten who had been invited by grace to a new life. But only 1 who returned as an expression of gratitude.
The words “grace” and “gratitude” have the same root in the Greek. In other words, if there is no awareness of grace, there is no gratitude. There is no gratitude without an awareness of grace. In the story, all received grace but only one returned with gratitude and praise.
I was just wondering…are you the one? Are you the one?