Hopefully, last week’s sermon helped us see a connection between faith and forgiveness. This week’s sermon focuses on making the connection between the attribute of gratitude and the understanding of what it means to be made whole or to have true health. The story is a familiar one. As Jesus and the Disciples journey between Samaria and Galilee they are cautiously approached by ten lepers…a community of outcasts put in that position by their unfortunate physical skin ailment. Jewish Law and Semitic social behavior casts the ten in the category of “unclean” keeping them from their families, their places of worship, and their neighborhood communities. They are not permitted to touch or be touched by anyone. Jesus appears to obey the rules. He doesn’t touch them but what he does do is to send them to a local priest. They leave to go and do as they are told and while walking to their destination all ten are cleansed…no more leprosy. Upon discovering their new, clean state, only one of the ten returns to offer his thanks and he, as Luke indicates, a foreigner. It is in this act of gratitude the newly cleansed Samaritan earns Christ’s attention. Almost as an offhand aside, Christ defines the situation…only one returned and he a Samaritan. Where are the other nine? With that, Christ quietly orders the man to his feet and sends him home to his family, to his town, to his renewed future. Though gratitude is not a precursor to healing, this man’s gratitude is rewarded with something more. He has been made whole. His life has been returned to him.
There are those who believe in the power of gratitude to heal. C.S. Lewis once an atheist after turning back to his faith as a re-born Christian, made a comment regarding the many places in the Bible where praise for God and thanksgiving to God are intentionally offered. He also made the connection between gratitude and well-being saying, “I noticed how the humblest and at the same time most balanced minds praised most: while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised the least. Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.”
There are some thoughtful clues in this scripture passage that guide the hearer or reader to a better understanding of what it means to be made whole. The one that seems to touch on my life (and perhaps, yours too) is that the grateful now newly healed once named leper “turns back” to offer his gratitude to Jesus. The thought that turning back or around can make the significant difference between a simple healing and a changed life is extraordinary but for so many of us, we have been changed by act of turning around and returning to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. We repent and turned back to Christ and know, perhaps for some of us and for the first time in our lives, true healing, a true wholeness. Throughout the gospels and clearly in this one, repentance is linked to an inner healing and a certainty of life renewed, restored and whole.
Our days are filled with opportunities to offer our thanks for every breath we take, for each new challenge and every new opportunity. We give thanks just knowing Christ is in it all with us even in the pains, the losses and the stresses of life. Anne Lamott writes that her two favorite prayers are, “in the morning, ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and at bedtime, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’” That’s beautiful and so true. We need help every day and we can only best express our appreciation for the kind of help we receive from God above with the simplest of prayers, “Thank you.” Amen.