Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Faithful Gratitude

Faithful Gratitude

We heard two stories today about leprosy. For the people of Bible Times - Old and New Testament times - leprosy was a devastating disease. Leprosy literally stole your life. You had to leave your home, your family, your job. You were banned from any human contact except for other lepers. You were forced out of the temple which meant you had to give up any contact with God - it was literally a hopeless life. All you could do was spend the rest of your life in isolation with other lepers waiting to die.
In our first story we have a man called Namaan who is a very important man - a national hero. Everyone loved him and looked up to him and he had a healthy ego. this leprosy was devastating because it meant the loss of all of this. He would have to ‘disappear’ into isolation. He has a young Hebrew slave girl who tells him if he goes to the prophet Elisha, the prophet will heal him. But for a man who has always been in charge and self-sufficient and capable, going to someone for help was a tough thing! But he is desperate and he goes.
Elisha, through his servant, tells Namaan to go and dip into the Jordan 7 times and he will be healed. Namaan’s ego is hurt because he is an important man and the prophet should have come and told him himself and Namaan thinks he deserves some type of big deal and some big ceremony to get healed….. but he is a desperate man and he does what Elisha tells him and lo and behold, Namaan dips in the Jordan seven times and he is healed. And he goes back to Elisha and his response is Thanksgiving! Praise God! Namaan says and I will worship God forever!
This story reminds us to think about what God has done for us - not so much super things but ordinary things, day to day things, all those small things that we know are from God. And that we need to remember and to offer God what we have - praise and thanksgiving and adoration. Our response to all the moments of our life where God provides for us is to say, “I will worship God forever with love and thanksgiving!”
That is the first step to understanding Stewardship - simple worship and thanksgiving.
Our second story talks about Jesus who is walking down the road when he encounters 10 lepers.
Remember these are men who have been outcast, who have no future, who have been away from their previous lives for we don’t know how long. We don’t know how long it has been since they have seen their families or how long it has been since they were allowed to worship. But what we do know is that they know their only chance of returning to a normal life is in Jesus.
So they come to Jesus and ask him for help. Jesus’ response is “Go show yourself to the priest and you will be healed.” And they do exactly what Jesus tells them to do. They go and in the going they are healed. If they had just stood there looking at Jesus wondering what Jesus was telling them to do and not understanding what Jesus meant or why they were to do it this way, I doubt the healing would have happened. It was in the obedience to what Jesus has told them to do the healing takes place. But we know that once they go to the priest and the priest sees their leprosy is gone, they can return to a normal life.
But these were 9 men. There was a 10th man. This man came back and comes back praising God. With a loud voice, shouting thanksgivings to God. He gets down at Jesus’ feet. Puts his face on the ground to show and shout his thanks to Jesus and to God for his healing.
This man’s thanksgiving isn’t just something he feels in his heart. His thanksgiving is coming out in his words and with the steps that his takes. He is grateful. With all of his body. With all of his heart. With all of his soul. With all of his mind. Grateful.
Jesus tells him, “Get up.” “Go on your way.” “Your faith has made you whole.”
Think about that word - whole. You faith has made you whole. Not just well - the healing of the leprosy came earlier but it was in the thanksgiving that this 10th man was changed. His thanksgiving didn’t affect the other 9 man; it didn’t change or affect Jesus; the person it made a difference to was the man himself. His thanksgiving changed him. His gratitude for what Jesus did for him changed him.
So we are back to what we learned from Namaan - about thinking about the things God has done for us - and about our response. We don’t say Thank You! to God because God’s blessings are dependent on our gratitude, we say thank you to God for all the things God has done for us because it changes us. It changes how we look at life, how we understand God - it makes us whole.
Something that easy and simple - just to sincerely say Thank You for all the blessings in our life can change our whole outlook on life.
Faithful gratitude, recognizing that we can credit God for our lives and for the food that we eat and the love that we share and so very much, much, more. It changes us. Makes us whole.
On this Stewardship Sunday, we are thankful for all you have done in the work of this church. Your giving empowers and encourages and allows children to know they are an important part of the life of this church and for us to provide food for the hungry and for the homeless, for us to have a place in which to worship and a building where we can gather to fellowship and share meals and to learn more about the Bible. On this Stewardship Sunday we can be thankful for music and a musician to provide that music and a choir to share their gifts and talents; we can be thankful for learning opportunities in our Bible Studies and special programs during the seasons of the year; we can be thankful for the time commitment of our committee members as they do the work of the church; we can be thankful for those who faithfully attend worship each Sunday and we could go on. We truly have an abundance we can be thankful for as a congregation.
And what we know is that it has all come as a gift from God and our response today is to say thankful and to hear Jesus’ words when he says - your thanksgiving has made you whole.
And it blesses this church with abundance as you return to God a portion of all God has provided you.

Amen!