11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
There was a time (hopefully less so now) a few years ago when I was a teenager where everyone was paranoid about contracting the AIDS virus and so anyone with HIV was treated with fear and people kept their distance.
If you remember those times this could give you a small insight into how the culture of Jesus time treated those with leprosy.
If you contracted leprosy it was a death sentence, you were completely ostracized -no one who have anything to do with you-, you had to leave your home and family and live outside the city. You were considered religiously defiled and not allowed into the Temple. You had to ring a bell to warn people of your coming their potential peril of coming into contact with you. The only people you could associate with were other people with the disease.
If you had leprosy you were literally a dead man walking!
So, here come these guys and ask Jesus for healing, literally asking for their lives back and their whole identities to be restored.
Jesus heals them, and they run off delighted at being healed, and yet only one comes back to say thank you and he was someone from a tribe that the Jews thought “didn’t do God properly”, the last one they would expect to be the one who did the right thing.
He literally had given them new life.
Jesus had restored their identity.
Jesus had taken defiled outcasts and transformed them into people who were ceremonially clean!
It made me think about gratitude.
Gratitude is not something we really seem to value in our culture.
True, we teach our kids to say their “pleases and thank you’s” but are we really teaching our kids gratitude.
Gratitude -heartfelt thanks- real authentic and expressed appreciation.
It is hard to believe that these guys took their healing, cleansing and restoration so flippantly without giving thanks to Jesus, and then I thought of how often I often take my salvation for granted, skip over all the great blessings that I have in Christ and focus on the bits of my life which I find difficult.
Children get so desperate for presents, like fidget spinners, and then just weeks after getting one, they are soon begging for something else some other craze.
Our culture is one of scarcity and unfulfilment, we have more than we have ever had before and yet we are neither satisfied or grateful, we forget all the things we have been given and just long for the next spiritual blessing, focusing on our half empty cup rather than seeking to look at what Christ has done.
Recently having both moved and done a little more work with the homeless I have realised how much I have, and have been given, and how little gratitude I have within my heart and character.
Too many of us rush at life as though it is an all you can eat buffet and stuff our faces, rather than taking time to savour life, to appreciate all that we have, to take a moment to enjoy the moment, to learn what it means to be satisfied.
As we said grace today, I wondered how much of this has become a habit and how much of this is really and truly “giving thanks for our daily bread”.
I then wondered if I was in the story would I be one of the 9 running off excitedly about my healing rather than coming back to Christ with thanks, praise and gratitude on my lips?
Then I thought of the Samaritan in the story, and I realised that often our deepest spiritual lessons come from the most unlikely places and the most unlikely people. I am always challenged when I work with those who have very little how extraordinarily generous they are, and often those who have so much can be tight fisted!
I then thought, what am I grateful for, I did a bit of a list in my head, and realised it was a bit like that crazy scene from “Life of Brian” where the people say “what have the Romans ever done for us…” -there is a massive long list that keeps going on and on…-
I remember praying “Lord I don’t want to be like the 9 who went away without thanking Jesus, I want to be the one overwhelmed with gratitude”.
When we come to Communion, sometimes called the Eucharist -which literally means “Thanks Giving” and we (may) say these words “Feed on him in your hearts by faith with thanksgiving”.
This attitude of gratitude ought to be one that we nurture as Christians, as so often I come to praise times and I am often overwhelmed by my own worries and stresses, perhaps discovering a great depth in worship I need first to be reminded of all that I want to thank God for, and then thank him. Gratitude, praise and worship are so often closely held together, and perhaps to go deeper in praise and worship I need to cultivate a greater depth in my expressions of gratitude.
I then began to think about all the other people who I am grateful too, do I thank people often enough, do I acknowledge my appreciation for all that they do, do I encourage and affirm those who bless me, or do I gobble it up and forget about it.
The 9 Lepers may have missed the opportunity to return and thank Jesus, be we can always turn to him and give thanks.
So, let’s learn to nurture and cultivate within ourselves an attitude of gratitude, seeing all that God -and those around us- have done and given us and be people who savour life, and our thankful.
And as I wonder about gratitude I feel that this is such an attractive and so massively counter-cultural, another way our lives can gleam out a Christian distinctiveness, that’s radically and beautifully different from the word around us.