22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Gratitude and Thankfulness

09 October, 2016 Luke 17:1-12 Pentecost 21 By Rev Dr Christopher Page


“The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful;
it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

Introduction
Do you ever wonder if when someone sends you a thank-you card you should send a card back saying, “thank you for your thank-you card?” I know it is not very logical, but I do often feel that I should respond in some way. It is lovely to get a card that expresses a person’s gratitude for something you may have done for them. I suppose we don’t always expect it; if we did, we might at times feel disappointment that we were not thanked. But that would miss the point. Gratitude, like love, must come to us unbidden. A card is often just a simple token of appreciation; an expression of the relationship you may have with that person.

In fact the relationship may be very tenuous and yet a person can feel moved to thank you for something you said or something you did. I have many thank-you cards in my filing cabinet from people who have been present at funerals, baptisms, weddings or church services that I have conducted. Some are from the family of the deceased, or the bride and groom. I don’t get many from the little ones I baptise. And yet other cards are from people I have never met who attended a funeral or some kind of service. There is something humbling about receiving such cards.


Gratitude takes us Deeper
But there are also deeper levels of gratitude that we can experience. The missionary doctor and theologian Albert Schweitzer said:

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

He is referring to how we respond to the kindness, encouragement and love that can come from another person or from an experience in life. And that is what gratitude is. It is a response to something or someone who comes into our lives with a gift or with a grace.

The story of the healing of these ten lepers is an event where gratitude is the response of only one of the lepers. While the story doesn’t say it, no doubt the ten lepers were overjoyed to be healed:

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean.

There really isn’t any condemnation of the nine who ran headlong to show the priest that they were healed and therefore no longer needing to live on the fringe of society. Now they could return to being full citizens of their town. Who wouldn’t be overcome by that?

But one man recognised the source of his healing and so he turned toward Jesus:

…when one of the lepers saw that he was healed, he turned back, and praised God with a loud voice. He fell at Jesus' feet and thanked him.

…And he thanked him. Interestingly the author of Luke tells us that he was a Samaritan. Not only an outsider because of his disease, but culturally an outsider because of his race. Nevertheless, he was grateful to the man who healed him.

The Prayer of Gratitude
The 13th century German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart said: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” And those words have echoed down through the hallways of history. The Swedish Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, wrote, “For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!” And I love the words of Alice Walker, the American novelist and poet, who in the same spirit as Meister Eckhart wrote:

‘Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, and understanding.

I know we often say that love is the greatest of virtues, and of course that is true. But love can become an abstract if not a cliché. Don’t we put it into practice by saying thank you? And perhaps at a deep level the demonstration of love is acts and expressions of gratitude; and as Alice Walker suggests, in humility and understanding.

We can be most grateful for the people who have shaped us in positive virtues. Who have formed us in life-giving ways. Parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, church members and of course even strangers. But most of all, our loved ones (where we can easily fail to express our gratitude.)

Last Saturday Milton Cameron’s father died. Milton was very close to his father and loved him a great deal. This morning I have asked Milton to share briefly his gratitude for his father and the life he shared with him….. Thank you Milton.

Gratitude, says Melody Beattie, unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

It is easy to underestimate the inner power of gratitude. Like many virtues it is a two-way street. When I express my gratitude I touch the life of another person. Perhaps I make them joyful or happy. But it also does something to me. 

There is a spiritual tradition, developed by the Spanish priest St Ignatius of Loyola in his spiritual exercises, called the Examen. The Examen is a daily practice with several aspects. And one of those aspects is to recognise in our lives where we are grateful:

Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. [And give thanks for them.] God is in the details.

Not far from John Milton’s great quote:

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.

Our story from Luke’s narrative is not so much about the small things of everyday life. It illustrates the great and life-changing events that happen infrequently. But it does emphasise the importance of paying attention. The grateful leper who turned back in gratitude and thankfulness paid attention to the person who had changed his life. And interestingly, if we read the story carefully, we will note that this man got a greater gift than the other nine who were healed.

Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

Your faithfulness, your attentiveness, your awareness has make you well, has made you whole. While the nine were healed of their disease, this man was graced with wholeness. It was not just his leprosy that was cured, he left as a changed and transformed person. He was made complete because of his act of thankfulness and gratitude. That is what made him a new man.

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