Faith United Methodist Church

October 22, 2017

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Rev. Kristabeth Atwood

Scripture: Luke 19:11-19, Psalm 66:8-12

Prayer of Illumination (Unison):

O God, it is hard to claim the hope and promise of the past in the presence of today’s troubles. Meet us today with your good news that we may be renewed by the power of your presence and be thankful. Amen.

Sermon: The Grateful One

Over the next few weeks we will be asking ourselves “What Light’s Our Path?” What lights our path? The answer to that may seem easy. The sun. Our LED lights. The high-beams in our car. The street lights. The headlamp that I wear when walking the dogs. The flashlights we keep handy in case the lights go out. Unlike ancient days, today there are so many sources of light that we bemoan light pollution. If only it were dark enough to see the lights of the heavens.

Yet light doesn’t always come from the obvious sources. As our children reminded us this morning, God’s word can be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Our Gospel lesson today shines a bit of that light as we hear of one of Jesus’ miraculous healings. Jesus was on the path to Jerusalem. His path was lit by his desire to visit the Holy City during Passover and follow the mission God had placed upon his heart. But Jesus encountered something on the way that caused him to pause, if just for a moment. Ten lepers, recognizing the great healer, called out to Jesus for healing. “Jesus, over here!” And Jesus, seeing their need, healed them. They were so excited they took off without a second thought. They needed to present themselves to their priest to be declared clean before they could return to their families and friends.

And this was a pretty big deal. As lepers they were ostracized from the community because of their illness. This healing meant that they would be able to sit for a meal with their loved ones, hold their children, kiss their mothers. It’s no wonder they were in a hurry to get going, to get back to their lives.

But one of the lepers ~ yes, just one ~ paused. Instead of rushing ahead with his life, he turned back. This one leper broke from the group and went back to Jesus to thank him. He fell at Jesus’ feet and praised God for the amazing thing that happened. Jesus’ healing was a tangible, physical reminder of God’s goodness. It is a powerful experience to receive a blessing, name it and give thanks for it. David Lose writes that gratitude is, “…the most powerful emotion, as it frees us from fear, releases us from anxiety, and emboldens us to do more and dare more than we ever imagined.”

In response to the leper’s gratitude Jesus blessed him saying, “Your faith has healed and saved you.” He was not only healed of his physical disease, but he was given the wholeness of salvation. You could say that this leper followed the path of gratitude and it led him to the feet of Jesus.

But let’s think about those other nine lepers for a minute, okay? Didn’t they, too, receive healing? Weren’t they, too, given a new lease on life? So why didn’t they go back and thank Jesus? Why didn’t they show gratitude to the one that set them free? It might be going too far to think that the nine were not grateful, but did they do anything to show it? As Paul Duke explained it, “Naturally they are ecstatic, and do what any of us would do if headed down a highway with a brand new life: they accelerate.” Even Jesus wondered where they were, asking, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine?”

The truth is that it is easy to forget to praise God, isn’t it? It’s easy to be preoccupied. It’s easy to accelerate when things seem good. Too often I have been like the nine, merrily going along my way, rather than like the one that went back. Too often I’ve followed the path of self-interest rather than the path of gratitude. Too often I’ve missed out on the blessing, thinking I had more important things to do.

The former leper, the grateful one, knew something that the world too often forgets. Life is not about what we can get for ourselves, but how we live in relationship. The true meaning of life is in connecting with God and with each other. By falling at Jesus’ feet, by looking into Jesus’ eyes, by smiling into Jesus’ face, the Samaritan experienced the light of Christ and was blessed with all that would ever matter.

Our question for today is; What lights our path into the church? Maybe it is the light of love? Maybe it is the light of faith? Maybe it is the light of hope? Each of us has our own answer to the question of what brought us to church – and keeps us coming back. Yet I suspect that gratitude has something to do with it. Like the leper, we recognize the gift we have received from a loving God and we want to say….. thank you.

We don’t know anything about this leper beyond this brief encounter. We know that Jesus continued along the path to Jerusalem, and this leper likely went to show himself to the priest. Did the leper tell his family about the man from God who healed him? Did he treasure the blessing in his heart? Did he give of his time, his treasure to help others who struggled as he had? Again, to quote David Lose, “Stewardship is not first about giving, but about seeing all that we have been given and rejoicing in a way that cannot help but shape how we act.”

This story may prompt us to ask ourselves what we do to express our gratitude for all that God has done for us? Are we conscious of the blessings that surround us each month, each week, each day? Do we follow the path that leads us to say thank you? Do we pause to recognize the light that Christ brings to our lives? Do we give of our time, our treasure, so others may know the joy that we know as followers of Jesus? Or do we rush ahead, like the other nine, thinking only of what comes next and forgetting to say thank you.

Like the one grateful leper, let us turn Jesus in gratitude and hope. Let us enjoy being in the presence of God and all the blessings God has given us. Let us be grateful from the heart. And let us walk the path laid before us by the light of Christ. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.