Our topic for today is gratitude. The story from the gospel of Luke highlights a group of lepers who were healed by Jesus, only to have just one of the ten take the time to return and give thanks for his blessing of healing. Only one took the time to pause and be thankful for a change in his life that was in fact life-changing. Only 10% were grateful.
Consider the situation. These 10 men were ostracized from their community. They could do no work, they could not provide for their families, they could not attend synagogue – nothing. They were completely excluded from every aspect of communal life. Everyone was afraid of being near these men for fear of catching their contagious disease. In essence these men were in solitary confinement.
Suddenly the great healer that everyone had been talking about is coming their way. Jesus of Nazareth was coming toward them and they cried out for mercy. At once Jesus provided healing and sends these men off to the priest. Once the priest would see they were whole again in body, they would be welcomed back into the fold. Yet nine out of ten could not take the time to return and give thanks for their healing. Nine out of ten were already focused on regaining their status. In essence, nine out of ten were missing an attitude of gratitude.
As we continue our focus on stewardship, we have been talking about the tithe – giving back a tenth of what we have. We started out talking about giving back a tithe of our talents – those skills and abilities God has blessed us with that in order to share with others. I am most grateful for our choir members who faithfully give back of their talent each week. I am grateful for those who serve as trustees and finance committee members, SPRC folks and church council participants, Knittin’ Chicks and the hospitality team, Sunday School teachers and van drivers. The administration of the church could not happen without each of you doing his/her part and I am thankful to all of you. I see folks that serve as taking an opportunity to tithe of their time and talent. But fear not – there are still plenty of opportunities for you to give back as well, not just here at Mayo UMC but in our community. Often the only talent required is a willingness to do the job and donate a little bit of time. Central Middle School is seeking tutors. South River High School needs folks to man the front door. Mayo and Central Elementary Schools are always looking for classroom helpers. The list goes on.
I could drone on about the needs in the community to no avail – until we are willing to listen and adhere to our innate need to give back we will continue to feel a bit unsettled – a bit restless. Many of us have so packed our schedules that taking time for anything else is out of the question. Our busyness keeps us going. I always love those days when you have a packed schedule, but it involves a stop at either a doctor’s office or grocery store or someplace where you cannot control how many others are there or how much time it will cost you to make that stop. We guess, but at times our experience goes like this: [show movie]
In many ways we like our busyness because the other extreme is irrelevance. If we are seen as busy than we matter. Here’s a realization for all of us – we already matter! Jesus Christ came not only to heal our bodies but to bring rest for our souls. Jesus gave himself for us so that we could know that at no time do we ever walk alone. Jesus healed all ten lepers even though only one of them was grateful. Jesus’ unconditional love for each of us goes beyond anything we could ever comprehend.
Jesus is calling us to action, yet it is highly probable that this calling is drowned out by the noise of everyday life. We try to make our families happy but the reality is that many families suffer from lack of time together. Many caregivers suffer from the physical and emotional strain of caring for loved ones. Many elderly suffer from feeling neglected and alone. Is it worth it to set aside small snippets of time to pray for our families? Is it worth it to take a few moments during the day to focus on some quiet meditation while reading God’s word? If we are honest with ourselves, perhaps we only read Scripture on Sundays. Maybe we only pray when we are desperate.
An attitude of gratitude – how can we become more like the one leper out of ten that returned to give thanks? How can we devote a bit of our precious time to answer the call to be more than those who simply run from work to kids activities to errands to restless sleep? It is certainly counter-cultural – being grateful seems to go against every norm. We no longer have a once-a-year holiday to give thanks because it has become drowned out by the constant noise of activity from Halloween to New Year’s Eve. It is abnormal to take time to give thanks, so let’s be abnormal!
I stopped by Central Middle School to drop off some school supplies that were on their bucket list, and I managed to meet with the nurse in the health room who noted some much-needed items to keep on hand. Not only had no one stepped forward to donate these fairly inexpensive items, but the nurse was hesitant to even ask for them. You cannot know the gratitude she expressed and her utter surprise that a local church was willing to go the extra mile and make things a little easier for our community kids. Let’s keep surprising folks with our generosity of our talent, treasure, and time so that it no longer becomes a surprise!
That is how we share the gospel in tangible ways. It is not normal for anyone to give back, so let’s go against the norm. I would love to see each of us so active in our communities in spite of our busyness that our children start to take notice. If our kids see us giving back, what are the chances they will do this as well? Parents are still the greatest influencers of a child’s behavior and choices.
We, as this body of Christ known as Mayo United Methodist Church, are the village that is helping to raise up the next generation of believers in Jesus Christ. How are we doing this? It all starts with our attitude. Let us focus our hearts and minds and our time on the important things in life – following Jesus’ call to action, spending time with family and friends, giving back to the church and the community, leaving a legacy of kindness that will be remembered long after we leave this earth. Amen.