A Thankless Job

Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Luke 17: 11 – 19.  Focus on why we want a thank you.  Check out Kelly Crandell & Alex Pikarsky on the song – You Raise Me Up.

Alyce McKenzie writes in her October 6, 2013 blog – A Thankless Job.

“My mother’s generation was big on thank-you notes. My mother always said that you could tell a lot about a person depending on whether or not they bothered to write them. One time, she told me of a friend who, whenever a bride did not have the manners to write a thank-you note for a wedding gift, would write the bride the following note: (The names are made up)

Dear Amanda: Thank you for inviting us to your lovely wedding. I am writing to make sure that you received our gift. If you didn’t, can you let me know and I’ll arrange for a duplicate to be sent to you?

Wishing you every happiness in your marriage,

Jean and John Smith

It sounds so passive aggressive doesn’t it? Or at least like something Ann Landers would have said. It puts the bride in a tough spot. Assuming she got the gift and has just not yet gotten around to writing the thank-you notes or even if she has doesn’t intend to, how is she supposed to respond?

Dear Jean:

I did receive your gift and apologize for not having written you a thank you note yet. Please don’t interpret this as lack of gratitude. I’ve just been very busy.



Dear Jean:

I did receive your gift but have made the decision not to write thank you notes since I’m very busy and they are very time consuming. You may, if you wish, send me a duplicate gift.

All good wishes to you in your marriage.


My mother’s friend was sending ungrateful brides a message with her passive-aggressive notes. She wasn’t afraid her gift had not been received. She wanted the bride to receive the message that not sending a thank-you was unacceptable, ill-mannered behavior. She wanted a thank you. And I can see her point.”

Who doesn’t want a thank you for a gift given? And that’s what I like about this story in Luke’s Gospel. It shows Jesus’ humanity. Hey what is wrong with my fellow Jews? Why do you not offer thanks to God when you get healed? What’s wrong with my tribe? But a Samaritan? That’s the only guy who could be found to give thanks. What’s wrong with my tribe?

Jesus is lamenting over the fact that his own people. The people he was sent to are not receiving his message? But these Samaritans, and this Syro-Phonecian woman, whom Jesus referred to as a dog are the stories that were recorded to remind us that the message of God has a life of it’s own. It is like the seeds we are called to scatter without care as to the type of ground they fall upon. In all of these stories and so many more, Jesus shows us his humanity. He shows us that saying thank you is a good thing, but don’t expect it.

In a real sense Jesus has a thankless job and so do many who follow in his footsteps. But if you live for the thank you – you will almost always be disappointed in your fellow human beings. Sometimes and more often than not, we are simply doing our job. As Jesus told his disciples in the verses preceding our text:

“Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table?

No what he will say to his servant is: ‘Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink?’ Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that is commanded of you, shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty. (Luke 17: 7 – 10)

It’s clear that Jesus didn’t do what he did to be thanked. And it’s a good thing too because people respond to the workings of God in all kinds of ways, but not often with thanks.

When Jesus heals a man with a withered hand, the response of his opponents is to be filled with anger and they begin plotting his death. (Luke 6:11)

When Jesus casts out a legion of demons from the Gerasene Demoniac. His neighbors ask Jesus to leave because “they were seized with great fear.” (Luke 8:37)

When a woman is healed by simply touching his garment, he quickly sends her on her way saying: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8: 48)

Jesus doesn’t seem all that interested in having people hang around and thank him. He often heals people and then says to them: “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”

So if we are following in the way of Jesus we shouldn’t be too surprised if we are not thanked all that often. We are simply doing our job Jesus tell us, but it’s still nice to know that every now and again Jesus’ humanity shows through into our humanity and we see it’s also nice to receive a thank you! Just don’t be surprised if turns out to be one in ten who do it! In the end the healings abound – Thanking God not so much! Amen

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