Was Only One Found to Give Thanks


Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Luke 17: 11 – 19.  Focus on why giving Thanks is so important.  Be sure to check out Jody Sinkway and the Choir.

The story of the ten lepers is told during a time when Jesus has turned his gaze and focus toward Jerusalem in order to remind the world that God’s love for us is a constant even when ours is not.

And so out of this context we might ask with Jesus why did only one return to give thanks? Were not ten made clean? Why did this foreigner come back and give thanks? And a Samaritan at that, hated by the Jews, unclean, despised, one who had every reason to keep on going without giving thanks, yet he returned.

This is a story that every one can relate to. I know it’s a story every minister can relate to. It seems that when life is at its most hectic, when we’re trying and planning so hard to stay on top of everything, well that’s when all the stuff just hits the fan and life just lays waste to our best laid plans.

This year, like every year before it seems more hectic than ever. And no matter how hard I try to go back to making my list and checking it twice, life just keeps interrupting it.

I can readily identify with a remark made by Mother Teresa: “I know that God will not give me more than I can handle. I just wish he wouldn’t trust me so much.”

Now what I find comforting in this passage is the fact that Jesus himself had a similar problem in his ministry. When his sights were set on Jerusalem, when every fiber of his being was getting ready for the cross, he found that his plans were also being constantly interrupted.

From this passage on, in Luke’s Gospel, to the time that Jesus enters Jerusalem he is interrupted to heal ten lepers, to debate the Pharisees about the coming of the kingdom, to teach his disciples about prayer, to spend time blessing little children, to counsel a rich parishioner about the cost of discipleship, and to stop and dine with Zacchaeus.

Was he frustrated? Yes! “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Did he complain? Yes! “How long will I have to contend with this foolish and sinful generation?” “O Jerusalem killing and stoning the prophets?” “Could not even one of you remain awake with me this night?”

But in spite of all of the frustration he never stopped giving mercy. He never stopped healing and teaching. He never left a sinner unforgiven. And therein lies the difference between Jesus and the rest of us. He never stopped even when he was nailed to a dead stop on the cross. Even then he offered hope to common thieves crucified beside him. When I behold a man such as this, I too must say with the centurion, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Jerusalem will always be waiting; we all have a destiny with death. The question isn’t whether we’re going to die, but how might that inevitability give meaning to my life? For what purpose am I here?

When it’s all said and done will I be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I kept the faith.”

Or will I say, “I have kept to my schedule, I have finished all the paper work that was required of me, I have kept my life decently and in order?”

But I don’t want to live like. I like the way I feel inside when I extend mercy. I like who I am as a person when I react with peace and calm to others. I can sleep at night when I don’t get caught up in being right, but instead get caught up in being tuned in to what the situation calls for, which is usually a hurt that needs to be healed, a panic that needs to be calmed or a reassurance that needs to be given.

Does it always work? No! Because we’re human and not God, so again I take comfort from the fact that Jesus also became irritated when he had a schedule to keep. “Hey! Weren’t ten healed? Why did only one come back? And a Samaritan at that.”

But I can take more than just comfort from him, I can also learn from him. I can learn that it’s always a choice to do what’s right, even when I get irritated. Will everyone say thanks? No!

But I have received far more thanks in my life then Jesus ever received in his. So if he could continue to view every person whom he met as a child of God why shouldn’t we at least try to do the same?

Being truly thankful is always born out of a broken heart. That’s what the terrorist attacks remind me of.   It’s an absurd idea to be thankful in the midst of strife. Yet in it we see the face of the one Paul called absurd and an embarrassment to his own people. We see a human who amidst all the strife and struggles of life was still able to give thanks for his life just as he asks us to give thanks for the miracle that is our life now.

And not only give thanks but to realize that even the worst that can be done has been met and conquered with eternal life.

To me that’s what it’s all about finding a way to give thanks for all that we have been blessed with even when the world would have us live in fear and hate. Choose thanksgiving it’s easier on your soul and your heart. Amen

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