Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. - Luke 17:15-16
Gratitude. That’s the theme for our upcoming Stewardship Season. Webster’s defines gratitude as a noun meaning appreciation. Synonyms include acknowledgement, appreciativeness, grace, gratefulness, honor, indebtedness, obligation, praise, recognition, requital, response, responsiveness, sense of obligation, thanks, thankfulness, thanksgiving.
Take the leper in the story from Luke: He didn’t have much to be grateful for. Banished from his community because of his illness, already an outsider in Israel because he was one of those “half-breed” Samaritans, and desperate not to die; he reaches out to the one man who will acknowledge his existence, Jesus. And, knowing full well that his life is in this “Master’s” hands (not just his potential restored health, but his recovery of a full life in which other human beings can again look him in the eye), he grovels for what he can’t earn. And Jesus, who loves his Father’s world, gives the man what he needs.
Here’s the catch, though. This man was only one of ten for whom Jesus accomplished this incredible restoration. And the other nine simply split from the scene: They went to their priest so that the priest could attest to there healing and declare them ritually clean. They went through the “legal” (ritual Jewish) process to be restored to their communities, and had their health and the priest’s stamp of approval to demonstrate that they were “in” again. But none of the nine said “thanks.” Only the one acted. Only this one stooped before Jesus, honoring the One who was the source of his new life, and then spoke words of gratitude.
Maybe more important is what Jesus says about the healed leper’s act of gratitude: “Rise and go. Your faith has made you well.” Interesting, huh? The man was already healed—as were the other nine who never returned; the priests had already done the ritual restoration. He didn’t need Jesus to do anything for him at this point. But he knew that Jesus’ graciousness had changed his life, and he wanted Jesus to know that he knew that. So he acted: he knelt, he voiced his praise. He did gratitude. And that, Jesus said, not only meant the man was healed, but that he was faithful, and consequently “well.” Hmmm. So gratitude is an act of faith. And, even more important than being healed, is being well with God.
Throughout this Stewardship Season we will explore together a variety of facets of gratitude: How are we as Christ’s people called to practice gratitude in regard to our relationships, where we are at in life, the talents, the skills, the resources that we have at our disposal? You will be invited to take stock of your own life, your life in Christian community at Calvary, and your place in the world. In all these places you are called to be a manager, a steward, of God’s gifts to you.
Starting Sunday, October 13 (or before, if you’d like), I invite you to employ all your senses in entering a season of gratitude: Look around you: What do you see that makes you grateful? Reach out with your hand: Whose touch has made you feel more human? Savor the food that passes through your lips, and send up a prayer of thanksgiving. Listen, and then sing your praises for the incredible sounds that God has filled your ears with. Gratitude may be a noun, but it only finds its full meaning in action.
May the God who has blessed each of us richly, give us the good sense(s) to appreciate all that has been done for us in Jesus Christ, the Master who makes us well. Amen.
But the theme for this season being developed by the Stewardship Team is really less a noun and more a verb. Gratitude, in other words, is not just a “thing” we experience. Rather, gratitude is something that we do, express, live. Gratitude is a way of life.
Lori A. Cornell