October 13, 2013: 21st Sunday After Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today as we think of You cleansing diseased bodies, remind us that You also cleanse the leprosy of the soul with Your forgiveness and healing love. Also, remind us that giving thanks to You for all Your blessings is a privilege and a joy that we Christians can celebrate every single day. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE MIRACLE WORKER!

TEXT: Luke 17: 11-19

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Hospital administrators have a tough job. Probably nothing strikes fear into their hearts more than the disease: Mersa. It is a flesh-eating bacteria that is often immune from the biggest antibiotics in their arsenal. If your hospital in infected by Mersa it will shut you down in a hurry.

In Christ’s day the word: leprosy, caused a similar reaction in the populace. Today we know it as: Hansen’s Disease. It is caused by a couple strains of bacteria and is fairly easily treated by antibiotics. But in Christ’s time there was no cure. Since it is probably spread by nasal spray droplets, people were immediately consigned to “leper colonies” and walled off from the general populace on pain of death. The disease slowly caused disfiguration leading to secondary infections which then caused body parts to die and flesh to fall off. Is it any wonder when lepers wandered the countryside they would have to yell out to other travelers “Unclean, unclean” to warn them against coming too close?

Jesus was traveling between Galilee to the north and Samaria to the south. “As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!'” Obviously, they knew who Jesus was. Perhaps when they were not yet infected they had heard or seen Him. In any case, even among lepers word of this new Rabbi went out and got their attention. Did they really think He would cleanse them, or did they just want some sort of relief? Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? They were in physical and emotional pain and anything He could do to help them would be appreciated.

I

“When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” The priests, in those days, served as the officials in charge of leprosy cases. They would examine the person to see if they had it or not. Mind you, people didn’t “get over” leprosy on their own. It took an antibiotic of which they had none. So, on the surface this command by Jesus seemed rather futile. Yet, they obeyed in hope and amazingly their symptoms and disease were healed as they walked away! Yes, this was a miracle! It was an amazing one considering the times. It had never occurred before. Can you imagine how thankful these men were? All of them were given their lives back in that instant. Thoughts of going home, being with loved ones again, having a life, interacting with people, eating decent food, drinking decent water, having a comfortable bed—having a life—all this was stretched out before them. Yes, all of them were thankful. How could it be otherwise?

But only one of them, “when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” Often we think badly of the other nine. We superficially read this text and conclude: only one man was thankful. Not true. They all were thankful. And yet, this one man wants to publicly voice his thanksgiving by praising God’s Son Who made it all happen. What’s even more amazing is this man wasn’t part of God’s chosen people of Israel, but a heathen Samaritan by birth. And yet, his heart was more focused and more appreciative, wasn’t it?

Then Jesus asked him, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go, your faith has made you well.'”

II

If I asked for prayer requests this morning, the majority of them would be about people in need, people who are hurting, people whose lives are a mess and who need God’s guidance, help, and solace. But, only a few of those requests would focus on praising God for the big and small blessings He gives us day by day. It’s human nature, isn’t it? We eagerly pray for help, but then forget, or pay passing lip service to saying: “Thank You, dear Lord!”

If you read the Psalms on a regular basis, they cover the entire range of human emotions, troubles, situations, and everything in between. But most of the Psalms are dedicated to thanking and praising God, aren’t they? There’s a reason for that. God loves it when we thank Him! Just like you, He wants to be recognized for His service to us, wants to be praised for it, and wants to hear our thanksgiving! We’re told in the OT that God laughs and that God even sings! I don’t know of a reference to Him smiling, but to me it’s obvious that He does. And our praise and thanks makes Him smile. Just as it makes your day when someone thanks you, so it makes God’s day, too.

Thankfulness is a wonderful antidote to a troubled heart. It pulls us out of our insecurities and dark moodiness and causes us to embrace the light. Why? Because Christian thanksgiving reminds us of the greatest blessing of all: God’s eternal forgiveness for all our sins has been given us in and by Jesus Christ. He earned it for us on the cross. He announced it to the world by His resurrection from the grave. It’s His free gift to us via God-wrought faith. Peace with God frees the soul from hurt and despair. Yes, the body may still hurt and the disease may still be there, but hope, eternal hope, is created and given flower by Christ’s forgiving heart. Christ reiterated that truth to this thankful Samaritan and through it he was made whole—inside and out!

In view of this amazing miracle, I encourage all of you to actively embrace a lifestyle of thanking and praising God—no matter your personal circumstances. Don’t be afraid to thank Him in your prayers. Don’t be afraid to voice your thankfulness to others every day. Make it the most important thing you do every single day. Likewise, continue to make Sunday worship attendance a priority each week, for here we re-energize that grateful spirit within with ongoing praise! I’m certain that all those ten men never forgot the day they were healed. I’m certain they all were appreciative over what Christ had done. But I’m also certain that this humble, outspoken proponent of thankfulness enjoyed the most fulfilled life of them all. May it be so for each of you. Yes, you can never go wrong in praising God! Amen