Each year we have a day set aside for thanksgiving in the church calendar. (See some photos in the Flickr photofeed in the sidebar – the flower ladies did a great job of decorating the church and we collected non-perishable food-stuff and also cash offerings to help the poor.) Like little children we need to be reminded to say “Thank you” to God, our creator, because we become very complacent and self-satisfied, imagining that we are so deserving of what we have and in fact should have a whole lot more! Giving thanks reminds us how blessed we are, how dependent we are on God for all that we do have, and how much more we can share with others if we allow our hearts to be generous.
This year the text for Sunday was Luke 17, verses 11 to 19. It is the story of the ten lepers who Jesus healed. They stood a way off (because their skin afflictions made it impossible for them to be around ordinary, healthy people) and shouted out to Jesus to have mercy on them. They must have heard about Jesus even though they could never have been part of the crowds who followed him wherever he went. Jesus looks at them and then tells them to go off and show themselved to the priests, which they actually did do. Quite amazing really, as they were only healed ‘on the way’, so it would have taken quite an act of faith to begin the journey to the priests before visible evidence of healing was given! This was what was required of them by law if their skin disease was healed, the priests had to confirm that this was the case and only then could they rejoin society. Anyway, as soon as it became clear they were healed, one of the lepers returned to Jesus, shouting his thanks IN A LOUD VOICE, and throwing himself at Jesus’ feet, facedown, and generally making quite a spectacle of himself! Jesus does wonder that none of the others returned to give thanks, only this Samaritan, a foreigner, someone despised by the Jews, but he proclaims a word of grace: “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” And, in this case, ‘well’ means so much more than ‘free of leprosy’, it means whole, restored, redeemed. This wonderful and somewhat outrageous outpouring of thanks by the leper demonstrates much more than a polite response to a physical cleansing. In Matt Redman’s book, Facedown, he says that “Every posture in worship says something of both the worshipper and the One being gloried in. The raising of hands tells of a soul stretched out high in praise and the worth of the One being exalted. Joyful dancing interprets a grateful heart and points in adoration to the source of that joy. When it comes to expressing worship, what we do on the outside is a key reflection of what’s taking place on the inside. Out of the overflow of our heart we speak and sing, we dance, we bow. God reveals, we respond. God shines, we reflect. Facedown worship is the overflow of a heart humbled and amazed by the glory of God.” (Facedown, (c) 2004 Matt Redman.
To live more thankfully we need to make three changes in our way of thinking:
We need to change from a sense of entitlement to a sense that we are underserving servants of the living God. All that we have is gift, and the manner we live our lives is simply the job that we need to do on this earth.
We need to change from a feeling that there is not enough, to a knowledge that there is MORE THAN ENOUGH! God is generous – look at the stars in the sky, the numbers of birds, bugs and grains of sand! When Jesus fed 5000 there were 12 baskets of leftovers! The scarcity that we seem to experience comes from our own sin and inability to appreciate and share.
We need to change from Conditional Thanksgiving to Unconditional Thanksgiving. God loves us unconditionally and we are encouraged to give thanks in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. Sometimes this is a tough call, but the more you give thanks the more you see to give thanks for!
Like the Samaritan leper in the Luke story we need to fall facedown at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks LOUDLY and allowing him to ‘make us well’. We need to make the connection between our wholeness and the One who has made us whole. We need to express on the outside how we are continually transformed on the inside.
In your day to day living how thankful are you? Think of a time you were most thankful.
How did or do you express gratitude, to God and to others?
What or who do you take for granted that you should be more thankful for?
How would your life change if you worked at being more thankful?