Harvest sermon – Luke 17:11-19

Hand out some gifts.

Why do we say thank you?

o    Our appreciation
o    In recognition of the giver
o    To give honour

Its very easy to give thanks to someone who has given you something directly, because you know them or you can see them and so say thanks mate!  What if we step back one level and think about the person who made the lollies, do we know them?  Can we see them?  Yet should we give thanks to them?  What if we were to take another step back and think about the people who produced the raw material in the first place?  The sugar cane and the cocoa trees, do we know who this is?  Can we see him?  Should we give thanks to them also?

Yes of course, but as you can see, the further we get away from the actual giver, the person who gave us the gift, the harder it is for us to recognise them as the giver. Here in Australia, a civilized country, where science and technology, shops and product outlets provide us with everything we need, we are so far from the actual giver, it is easy for us to forget to say thanks; after all, who do we give thanks to – ebay?

Yes, many of us have lost track of who to say ‘thanks’ to, because face to face giving, where someone actually gives us the present, is becoming a thing of the past.  We are far away givers and receivers.  Often the gifts we give are now posted, emailed, or express delivered, rather than given in person.  And the things we need for daily living, food, drink etc, we simply buy off the self, no face to face service or shaking the dirty and calloused hands of the local producer.  We have what we want without even recognising the giver.

And what is the result of our far-away giving and receiving?  We become focused on the gift and not on the giver.  We become selfish.  The further we remove ourselves from the giver of the gift, or the provider of our needs, the more selfish we become.  Where’s my quality fruit?  Where’s my new years harvest wine?  Little thought goes into the provider; the giver of our needs.

I’m sure that all ten of the lepers that Jesus healed that day, were grateful as they walked away along the road and noticed that their leprosy had been healed. I’m sure they were very thankful to Jesus in their hearts for answering their cry for mercy; curing them from their leprosy. I’m certain they were brimming over with gratitude as they showed themselves to the priest and were welcomed back into their communities.  Yet the distance travelled away from the giver, had its toll on their thanks.  The further they went from Jesus, the less chance they had of returning to him to give him thanks.  Why?

Because the gift becomes the centre of their attention; the further they walked, the more their thoughts turned to the gift.  Wow!  Look at me! Now I can go see my family, now I can do this and now I can do that.  As they walked away, unknowingly and most likely, unintentionally, so did their thanks to Jesus.

The text doesn’t say whether the lepers made it to the temple or not, or whether they went straight home to their families, but one thing is clear; the further they walked away from Jesus, the further they separated the gift from the giver, the less likely they were thank him.  It’s a fact.  It happens.  And it happens in our own lives.  On that special day of our baptism, we are given the greatest gift of all; Jesus heals us spiritually.  In the water we are cleansed of the leprosy of sin, which was killing us.  We are given a second chance at life, just like the lepers were.

And how grateful we are, very thankful to Jesus, and with every good intention, we plan to go to church, to show ourselves in God’s house, yet as we go, the gift becomes the priority over the giver.  Wow, look at me, I am free, no longer under the burden of guilt and fear; I don’t have to do this or that, or can do this and can do that.  And as the years go by, its so easy to distance ourselves from Jesus, travel away from him.  And this is reflected in our failure to give thanks; we no longer give thanks, that is, we no longer stay close to Jesus; we no longer worship. We don’t return to the giver to give him our worship of thanksgiving.

This was not the case however, with the one leper.  The further the Samaritan went from Jesus, the more he realized he was walking away from the giver.  It is most likely that he never even made it to the temple, and why should he.  He realized the place where God is, was not in the temple, but in Jesus.  For him, the place to give thanks for his healing was where Jesus is, for he is the new temple, the new place where God is present.  He fell down at Jesus feet and gave thanks – he worshipped.

To worship is the give thanks to God. Luke uses the word ‘Eucharist’, the verb ‘giving thanks’, Jesus ‘gave thanks’ to God when instituting the Last Supper; that is why the Supper is often called the ‘Eucharist’.  The service of giving thanks to the one who gives the gift of his body and blood for our healing.  In the Lord’s Supper we come to Jesus and he gives us the gift of a second chance at life, the gift of forgiveness and healing; an opportunity to start anew.  And like the one leper, we come to give him thanks; we come to worship; we come to be face to face with our giver, Jesus our saviour.

I often hear people say to me ‘I don’t need to go the church to be a Christian’, and perhaps you have heard this yourself, and perhaps this is what the 9 lepers thought, ‘I don’t need to go to Jesus to give him thanks, I can do it at home’.  But why wouldn’t we want to go to where God is; the gift giver?  Why wouldn’t you want to be were Jesus is?  Why settle for a distant relationship; a far away giving thanks?  Perhaps this is what we are used to, I don’t know.  Perhaps we are afraid of being close to Jesus; perhaps to say our thanks to Jesus, means more than words.

A lady named Barbara began keeping a list of her favourite things as a shy teenager.
Soon the list became second nature; she found herself making additions while riding the bus, eating breakfast, even in the middle of the night. Twenty years later and dozens of spiral notebooks later, she had listed 14,000 things to be happy about. (Why not write your own book?)  As wonderful and important as this is, giving thanks is more than drawing up lists of your blessings, thinking thankful thoughts, and feeling gratitude in your heart.  It means more than just giving lip-service.

To ‘give thanks’ is a verb, a doing word. Giving thanks involves our whole person.
When the one leper returned to Jesus and worshiped him, Jesus gave him a command – Arise, journey, your faith has made you well.  Jesus is on a journey to the cross, a journey to save and he calls those he has healed to join the journey with him.  Once we have come to Jesus in worship, he calls us in faith to arise and journey with him; to no longer travel away from him, but to walk with him; to be with him, so that we may serve others as he has served us.

Just as St John says ‘This is worship, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ And this is our thanks, ‘since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.’

Yes, so let us be thankful people of God.  People who are thankful enough to care about those kids in Dubbo North Primary School who don’t know Jesus; who are thankful enough to offer ourselves for service to those in our community; those who don’t fit in, to those in the hospital suffering alone.  We could probably make a list as long as Barbra on the ways we could live out our thankfulness in our community.  But remember, it is Jesus who heals and it is Jesus who is the gift giver, so first and foremost we journey with him; live in him and meet with him face to face and it is to him that we give our thanks and praise.
Amen

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