Of grace and gratitude
Lectionary blog for Oct. 13, 2013
Pentecost 21 — Proper 23
Text: Luke 17:11-19
By Delmer Chilton
“Peanuts” cartoon: Lucy is doing her math homework. She is working on a word problem. She is stuck, so she asks Charlie Brown for help.
“I’ll be eternally grateful,” she promises.
Charlie Brown says, “Fair enough. I’ve never had anyone be eternally grateful before. Just subtract four from 10 to get how many apples the farmer had left.”
Lucy says, “That’s it? That’s all there is to it? I have to be eternally grateful for that!? I can’t be eternally grateful for this; it was too easy.”
With his usual blank look, Charlie Brown says, “Well, do whatever you think is fair.”
Lucy thinks a minute, then says, “Thanks, Bro!”
Charlie Brown goes out into the yard where he runs into Linus, who says, “What you been doing, Charlie Brown?”
Charlie replies, “I’ve been helping Lucy with her homework.”
Linus wonders, “Did she appreciate it?”
Charlie says, “At greatly reduced prices.”
Charlie was gracious — Lucy was not grateful.
In the Gospel lesson, we hear another story of grace and gratitude. After receiving the benefit of an outstanding moment of grace, nine out of 10 fail to be grateful. As Jesus says, all 10 were helped graciously, all 10 were healed freely. There were no strings attached, no payment asked, no act of obedience required. They asked for mercy and Jesus granted it.
And they all believed Jesus; it was not a matter of a lack of faith. They all set out immediately, before their healing “kicked in,” to show themselves to the priest. And when they were healed, when the promise was fulfilled, nine continued on their way. Only one turned back to thank Jesus and praise God.
An interesting surprise is that the one who returned was a Samaritan, one who was permanently outside the community of faith rather than one seeking to be readmitted. Perhaps the Samaritan was doubly grateful for his healing because he did not expect it, while the others somehow believed that they deserved it — could it be that their lack of gratitude grew out of a sense of entitlement?
Sometimes you still occasionally hear or read of someone being referred to as being “well-bred.” This, of course, had nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with the way you were brought up. The old southern term for it is being “raised right.” Being raised right in the South included learning to express profuse “thank yous” at every appropriate moment.
It is interesting to note that the one person in the story who we are certain was not “well-bred,” had not been “raised right,” was the one who came back to say thank you to Jesus.
As we ponder this story, it is important that we move beyond questions of disease and healing, to a consideration of God’s many acts of grace to us and appropriate ways for us to express our gratitude to God for all this goodness that fills our lives.
Too often, too many of us, myself included, are like the man with a broken arm I heard a comedian talk about. He was at the post office and saw a man with his arm in a sling. The comic listened as the man asked for help from a postal employee. The employee obliged, writing the man’s note on the card, filling in the address, putting on a stamp. Finally, he handed it back and asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The man with the broken arm looked the card over a minute and then said, “Well, you could write a line apologizing for the bad handwriting.”
Are we like that, like the demanding man at the post office? Like the nine who took their healing and ran without a second look or a second thought? I know that all too often in my life I take God’s grace to me for granted and fail to whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, let alone go out of my way to help others in response to Christ going out of his way to help me.
God’s call to us today is to take a good look at our lives and find a way to express our gratitude to God in words and acts of prayer and thanksgiving, words and acts shared not only with God but everyone in our lives.
Amen and amen.
- When have you failed to say thank you? What got in your way?
- What are some ways you can express your gratitude to God?
Delmer Chilton is originally from North Carolina and received his education at the University of North Carolina, Duke Divinity School and the Graduate Theological Foundation. He received his Lutheran training at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C. Ordained in 1977, Delmer has served parishes in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.
You might also want to read:
Prayers for Thanksgiving
What if God was listening?
The one you least expect