(2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, 2 Timothy 2:8-15)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/RSNOTr_RwKs)
11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
There’s a story about a blind boy who sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said, “I am blind, please help.” There were only a few coins in the hat. A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words. Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?” The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way. I wrote, ‘Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it.’”
So why did the second sign elicit more giving? Why were people compelled to give more after reading the second sign than the first one? The first sign clearly asked for help while the second one didn’t even suggest it so why were people inclined to give more with the second sign? Well, for a couple reasons. Not only did the second sign convey the boy’s gratitude for the beautiful day even though he couldn’t see it but it also caused people walking by to stop and realize the beautiful day with the gift of their own sight. The sign caused people to be grateful for both the beautiful day and the ability to see just how beautiful it was. The boy’s attitude of gratitude was contagious to the people around him. It’s no wonder they wanted to give back once they caught the attitude! It is when we feel grateful that we tend to want to give. The man knew this about people and helped the blind boy tap into it and use it to his advantage.
And it is this attitude of gratitude that our readings want us to consider this morning. It is all too easy to be like those who passed by the poor blind boy. We get caught up in our own struggles in providing for own needs that we easily forget to realize all the blessings that God provides for us on a daily basis. We forget the needs of others because we’re consumed with our own needs. We forget that whatever blessings we’ve been given are gifts from our gracious God. We see others struggling to overcome obstacles placed in their lives and we forget to help them in whatever way we can. Indeed, there is much we easily forget in our lives and the lives of our neighbors! And God doesn’t want us to forget so much either. God wants us to realize our blessings and our responsibility to our neighbors who aren’t as blessed. God wants us to be diligent in carrying an attitude of gratitude about our blessings and our opportunities to serve our neighbors.
Both our first reading and our gospel reading involved people afflicted with the disease of leprosy. Recall that leprosy is a terrible skin disease that is highly contagious and painful. Because it is so contagious, people who are afflicted with it are isolated from those who aren’t. So not only is the disease physically deforming but it is also socially stigmatizing. Lepers are cast off from general society and left to suffer either alone or with other lepers. It is a terrible disease that ostracizes and creates great suffering. Both Naaman and the ten lepers that Jesus encountered on his way to Jerusalem through Samaria were suffering, ostracized people. By the grace of God, they were healed of their afflictions and their lives were forever changed. Naaman realized just how great his healing was and how great God was for performing it. Likewise, one of the ten lepers was so amazed at his healing that he went back to Jesus and expressed his gratitude. We are left to wonder just how grateful the other nine lepers because they didn’t return to express their gratitude. Nonetheless, both Naaman and the one leper did express their amazement and gratitude for God’s ability to heal them. God was pleased with the display of gratitude, as expressed in Jesus’ statement to the unnamed leper, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Both stories illustrate just how gracious our God is and give of us examples of how to keep an attitude of gratitude. If God can heal lepers and bring them back into fellowship with their neighbor, God can most certainly heal us of whatever struggles we find ourselves in. We must simply seek Him out and make our requests for healing known to Him. God wants to heal us of our afflictions! God loves us and wants only the best for us! Of course, this is not to say that God will heal us all afflictions. No, some afflictions serve a higher purpose only known to God. We don’t know why we must suffer, only God does. But be assured there is a purpose for suffering in this world. If there was no purpose to suffering, God wouldn’t allow it to exist. So even in our suffering, we can choose to maintain an attitude of gratitude. We must choose to be grateful for all that God provides and allows for in this life. We must choose to cling to our faith and obey God when He calls us to cleanse ourselves of our afflictions. Namaan and the ten lepers showed great faith in going to the river and the priests for healing as commanded by God and Jesus. They clung to their faiths and obeyed the calling to cleanse. We, too, must seek the healing that God calls us to whether we understand it or not.
An attitude of gratitude can transcend whatever joy or misery we find ourselves in at times. I’m reminded of the poem entitled, “Be Thankful,” by an anonymous writer. It goes:
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire … if you did, what would there be
to look forward to? Be thankful when you don’t know something … for it gives you the opportunity to learn. Be thankful for the difficult times … during those times you grow. Be thankful for your limitations … they give you opportunities for improvement. Be thankful for each new challenge… which will build your strength and character. Be thankful for your mistakes … they will teach you valuable lessons. Be thankful when you’re tired and weary … because it means you’ve given your all. It’s easy to be thankful for the ‘good’ things … yet, a life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are thankful for the setbacks. Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive … find a way to be thankful for your troubles and
they can become your blessings.
This is the deep sense of gratitude that God calls us into. We must be thankful for all that we wouldn’t expect to be thankful for. When we simply dwell in our sorrow and misery, we fail to reveal opportunities for great joy. Even suffering can be considered a blessing if we keep an attitude of gratitude. All that we receive and experience in this life can be considered a blessing depending on the attitude we choose to maintain. God is a good God. God is a gracious God. Never forget how good and gracious our God is!
We have been blessed with the witnesses of those who never forgot the goodness and grace of God. The apostle Paul kept an attitude of gratitude in both times of joy and persecution. We heard in his second letter to Timothy, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory…if we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” Like Naaman and the unnamed leper, Paul experienced the joy in his persecution exactly because of the attitude of gratitude that he maintained. It is the attitude of gratitude that enables us to “present [ourselves] to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.”
As we continue through Pentecost and this harvest season, let us strive to continuously maintain an attitude of gratitude. God has blessed us each in unique ways. God blesses us this day and will continue to bless us as we leave this place of worship. Praise God for all our blessings! Give thanks…with a grateful heart.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.