I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving weekend. In Seattle we had a few days of snow at the front end of last week that kep things snowy and beautiful through the Thanksgiving Day. It was beautiful. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving Eve service at our church on Wednesday night and I had the opportunity to teach on gratitude. It really hit me as I prepared for the sermon how most Christians have given up on the concept of God’s innate goodness. But the truth is- if we don’t believe God is good,we don’t fully understand God. And if you can’t understand God’s goodness in the midst of the pain and struggle of our earthly world, you haven’t adequately answered what Lewis calls “the problem of pain.” We don’t know why struggles arise…but there is a consistent story of JOURNEY and STORY that moves through the scriptures where God is calling us to new places in our faith in Him. In fact, Jesus never promises things will be easier- but instead promises us hope in Him.
God’s goodness isn’t changed because we experience pain. But instead, God Himself identified with pain when He lost His son. God knows pain and suffering and loss too. God’s goodness isn’t deterred when we suffer. GOD IS GOOD- and though the JOURNEY is difficult- it is the movement of this journey which leads us towards God.
The Greek word for thankful is eucharistos..which is also the root word for Eucharist, which means at the very heart of gratitude, is Jesus Christ. We celebrate this when we do communion- Lord we give you THANKS. The life and death and resurrection should be at the heart of our gratitude. But the question arises: but what does thankfulness look like in a fallen world? LUKE 17. In the story of the 10 lepers, found here, the people being healed are lepers- the most shameful and painful disease in the ancient world. Leprosy robbed people of their humanity in the way that it forced those suffering from the disease to leave the presence of other humans and be on their own. Truly, to be a leper, was to be dead to everyone else. But in Luke 17, Jesus come upon 10 lepers and instead of giving them a little food or water, He tells them- “go and show yourselves to the priests” and as they go and follow Jesus’ advice, they become healed. Jesus healing power, and his love for the outcasts, are clearly displayed here. All are healed, but when only 1 comes back to say THANK YOU to Jesus. And to this thankful leper, Jesus gives this an extra dose of healing. Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well.” All were healed from physical ailments, but only this man received the deeper spiritual healing as well. His gratitude allowed him to receive more of Christ’s blessing for his life. In giving thanks, he becomes more like Christ.
We all seek to be great characters in some cosmic Braveheart movie, but really all we have is the small choice every day that reveals our character. Our character is formed by the minutia of our small actions- choose to reflect Jesus or do not. We are writing the ending today! In essence- we are thankful in order to be transformed. When we show gratitude to God, we are remembering- God is good and He loves me and I know in the end things will turn out okay. We take our eyes off of our self and attach them to Jesus Christ. True gratitude changes how we act- it changes how we think- it changes how we see the world–it changes EVERYTHING.
BUT- We are never transformed just for our own good. We are blessed to be a blessing. We are forgiven in order to be transformed. Phillipians 4:4-9 says: be thankful and call upon God…practice Godly things and the peace of God will be with you. The landing spot here is this: when We are grateful- we are transformed..we become bigger than we ever thought imaginable…in order to go out and be a light unto the world.
So gratitude is more than just being polite or practicing good manners. At our core, we are called to be thankful lepers, grateful for the healing we have received from our sin to Jesus Christ. And when we return to the Messiah and say thanks, Jesus is able to do infinitely more with our lives.