Sermon Nov. 20, 2016 "The Consequences of Gratitude"

Date: Nov. 20, 2016 Thanksgiving Sunday
Scripture: Luke 17:11-19
Sermon: The Consequences of Gratitude
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

Besides turkey, what will be on the Thanksgiving menu at your house? If you live in New England, squash will probably be served. In the west, expect salad. And in the south, yes, it’s macaroni and cheese. Now for the pies. There is the preeminent pumpkin. And here in the south, pecan and sweet potato. But in the northeast and mid atlantic regions, the number two pick is apple. And if you live in the west, it’s cherry. So, we have our preferences and we make our choices accordingly.

Now in the story we heard today about the ten people with leprosy who are healed, it appears there is also a choice to make. Give thanks. Or don’t give thanks. There is the one, the wrong one, by the way, the one who was hated and an enemy, who opts to return to Jesus and give thanks for his healing. And then there are the other nine who go on their way. So, what would we choose? Would we choose to go with the one or the nine? Let’s take a few minutes to think about that.

To give thanks or not to give thanks. Hm. What might be the consequences of our decision?

The one who gives thanks runs back to Jesus, throws himself on the ground, and pours forth his gratitude. The story ends with Jesus affirming that the man is not only cured, but he is saved, he is made whole. This man is not only free of his leprosy, but he is experiencing a whole change of life. He has a new orientation. He has been transformed by gratitude.

When we are grateful, when we give thanks, we are engaging in a powerful spiritual practice. To give thanks is to give up the illusion of self sufficiency. If we are thankful for our food, for instance,then we are led to think about those who have grown it, those who have harvested it, those who have transported it, those who have built the roads and trucks that carry it, those who work in the stores that sell the food, and of course, Earth itself that provides the food. So we see that we are dependent on lots of people and upon creation to sustain us. We don’t sustain ourselves. We are not self sufficient. We don’t take care of ourselves. We don’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Gratitude helps us to see we are linked to the wider community, society, and Earth in a web of mutuality and interdependence.

When we give thanks we are acknowledging all that we are receiving and it is astounding. Each day, things happen, people help us, Earth nourishes us, and we receive and receive and receive. Gratitude helps us to see how gifted we are – by others and by creation. We see blessings abound. We see grace infiltrating our lives at every turn.

Being thankful helps us to see all that we are being given. Wow! Food, friendship, beauty, sunshine, work, play, so many things to be thankful for. Just think of all that we expressed in the Ritual of Thanksgiving. Such riches!

And when we affirm the abundance of life through gratitude, we move away from the illusion that we are wanting, that we don’t have what we need, an d that we are being shorted. Our reality shifts from one of scarcity to one of abundance. That’s what giving thanks does.

And then what happens? Seeing all that we have, and all that comes our way, we realize that we don’t have to hold on so tightly. We can open our hearts and our hands, and share with others. We uncover the generosity that is part of the image of God within us. We find ourselves giving and sharing and helping, and no longer afraid of what we are giving up or what we don’t have. Gratitude shifts our world view. We move from being self centered to being other centered. From a place of scarcity to a place of abundance. From individualism to the common good. From isolation to interdependence. Thanksgiving leads to a radical reorientation of life.

So, we think back to the story of the one with leprosy who came back to Jesus and the other nine who don’t. Perhaps the nine sense the power of gratitude. And they walk away because they don’t want to have their lives changed. They don’t want to see things in a new way. They just want to take their cure and go back to life as they knew it. But the one, the Samaritan, he doesn’t just want to be free of his disease. He is ready for a whole new life. For the faith that makes us whole. For the transformation that leads to our salvation.

Thanksgiving reminds us that we, too, have a choice to make. Will we align ourselves with the one, or will we stay with the nine? Each choice has consequences about who we will be and how we will live. Thanks or no thanks?

So, what will it be at your place? Turkey roasted? Smoked? Fried? And how about the pie? Amen.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

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