Grounded in Gratitude

Sterling UMC Exterior

September 7, 2014 ()

Bible Text: Luke 17:11-19 |

Series:

For the next 4 weeks we are going to be looking at what you might call our prescription for the future.  We are looking forward to the ways that God will use us; use this congregation in the coming years.   This is all a part of both of our Annual Stewardship and the Building a Church for Life Capital Campaign but this is so much more than about raising the funds to do the kinds of things that we want to do.  This is about asking ourselves, “Who are we and how are we responding to God’s gracious gifts to us.”  And then how will we make our responses as we seek to be a part of making an impact in our world and on the lives of people going forward into the future.

 

I believe our response to God’s call or our prescription for the future really can be found in three foundational ways:  It is…

  • Grounded in gratitude
  • Revealed in prayer
  • Lived in faith.

 

And it all starts with gratitude.  And that’s what this story is Luke 17 is all about,… this poignant incident where Jesus heals the ten lepers.  Remember the story with me.  Jesus was on the border between Galilee and Samaria.  As he entered a village, he heard 10 men screaming at him… begging for help.  Their bodies were covered from head to toe with sores as they were infected with the dreaded disease of leprosy.

 

But that’s not the worst of it.  The physical aspect is bad enough, but there is the mental and emotional aspect as well.  You see, when a person is found to be infected with leprosy they are immediately banished from society.  They were herded together and made to live in isolation away from their homes and families.  They were considered unclean, so if any person was to come anywhere near them they were required to call out in a loud voice, “Unclean, Unclean”, so that no one would come close to them.

 

As Jesus approached these 10 lepers stood together and from a distance shouted; “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  It was a chorus of misery, a choir of desperate voices.

 

Scripture tells us Jesus stopped in his tracks, looked directly at them and said.  “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  You see it was the priest who was the only one who could declare that they were clean and therefore fit to reenter society and return to our homes.

 

As they turned to make their way to the priest suddenly the leprosy was gone.  They were totally clean!

 

Completely overwhelmed and so full of joy and gratitude one of these men turned in his tracks and ran as fast as his legs would carry him toward Jesus.  He threw himself at his feet in gratitude and in a loud voice praised and thanked Jesus for his mighty and miraculous works.

 

Ten lepers were healed, but only one of them returned to say thank you.  The Samaritan in the group. The outcast among outcasts. He was the only one who stopped to say thanks and to offer their gratitude. The nine others went on their merry way.

 

I know what you’re thinking right about now: “Shame on those ungrateful nine! If I’d been there. If I’d been one of those cleansed lepers… I would have turned back and thanked Jesus!”

 

Sure you would’ve. Why don’t you do it now? Has he cleansed you, saved you, delivered you? Have you really thanked him? You see… we are so often like those nine lepers who forgot to say thanks…
– We are so busy… so spread thin.
– We are so stretched out and so stressed out.
– We are so frazzled with all the things we have to do, need to do, want to do… that we just can’t find the time to stop and say thanks to our Lord for what He has done for us.

 

Stopping to say thanks is so important, so precious, so beautiful, so right. That’s what this story is about. That’s why we know about and respect this Samaritan… because he took the time to go back and fall down at the feet of Jesus and say thanks.

 

And Jesus took notice of this.  Jesus looked at him and said, “Good for you!  Your faith has healed you.”  Another very appropriate way to translate that scripture: “Your faith has saved you.”  You see the leper that day, the one who came back not only did he receive his healing from the disease of leprosy but he was given a faith Jesus said that saved him.  His physical being, yes, but more than that his very soul.

 

“Good for you.  Your faith, your gratitude has saved you.”

 

And I go back to the quote, “Gratitude may be the purest measure of one’s character and one’s spiritual condition.”  Gratitude is one of the best ways we express our faith in Jesus Christ.

 

So let me ask you today, “What would cause you to shout for joy and fall down at somebody’s feet and thank them?  Literally like this guy did.  What would cause you to shout all the way to the back of the sanctuary, get somebody’s attention, go running up to them and fall on the ground before them and thank them for what they had done for you?

 

Have you ever had those times in your life when you were at least close to that?

 

What about the phone call that says the test results are negative?  Or the doctor who comes out and says, “The surgery was a success.”

 

What about that morning when you wake up and you think, “My life is different.”  I remember that time when I made a commitment of my life to Christ … I remember when I said yes to a relationship with Jesus and the feeling that I had when I woke up the next morning and to know that my life was different.

Those are the times when you want to just fall on your face and say thank you!

 

What about those times when you find out that the test results are not negative?  They’re positive.  And yet somehow you know that whatever comes you are not going to be walking through that alone.

 

Cause for deepest gratitude that expresses our most profound thanks.

 

So what are you thankful for?  You’ve got those little blue cards what will you be putting on those?  What are you grateful for?

 

I am so grateful for parents and grandparents and mentors in my home church that helped me from day 1 to be nurtured in the faith and give me an understanding of God’s love.  I am so grateful for God’s amazing grace that he loved me and of all people called me to be in this kind of ministry; called me to be at this place in this moment.  I am so thankful for that!

 

I am so thankful for all of the wealth and the blessings, beyond measure poured out upon me, that I have a wife who loves me and supports me and shares my life and ministry.  I am so thankful that I have 3 sons who know God, and faith and the church is important to them.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

 

I love to get up every morning and come to work.  Because I get to come here.   I am so thankful that I have blessing and the privilege of sharing ministry together with our amazing staff and so many of you dedicated and passionate lay leaders and volunteers.  I am just so grateful for that.

 

And I am so thankful that I am a part of a church that loves and supports each other; a church that wants to grow, for us to grow in our faith together, for us to be able to reach out, for us to be able to worship in a way that honors and gives glory and praise to God.  I am so thankful that I am part of a church that’s willing to do new things like… Grace Ministries, or take your summer vacation to go on a mission trip to serve other people in other places.  Or that you’ll say, “Yeah, we’ll adopt Rolling Ridge Elementary School and you’re present there tutoring and providing backpacks with nutricious meals.

 

I am so thankful for this church because this is a place where my son’s say, “Dad you need to know this is our home church.  And that’s a pretty significant thing when a preacher’s kid says that about a church.  They’ve had several “home churches” but they’re telling me, “This is our home church.”

 

This is the place where they know they have family, where they fit in.  There are just not words enough to be able to express my gratitude that you as a church have provided programs and ministries and opportunities for my boys to be able to put down deep spiritual roots and to spread their wings and use develop and use their gifts and talents in so many ways.

 

And it’s not just my kids it’s all of our kids.  I am grateful to God to be a part of a church that touches the lives of so many children and youth.  Do you see these banners?  Have you read some of the things that our children have written?

 

Read a few:

  • I love my church because…”they do VBS and summer camp. And I make new friends.”
  • My church’s best treasure is…”the band that sings about Jesus and God.”
  • I love my church because… “we learn about God.”
  • I love God because…”He loves us so much.”
  • I love Jesus because…”He cares about all of us.”
  • Jesus is my superhero because…”He answers my prayers.”

 

How can you put a price tag on that?  Do you realize the difference that makes in these children’s lives?  It is an impact that will stick with them like it did for me for the rest of their lives! That’s what you make possible with your support and involvement!  I am so grateful to be a part of a church that takes that seriously and makes that happen.

 

And for my kids and your kids one day down the road, many years down the there will be weddings.  And they imagine that here, because they can’t imagine it anywhere else.  And I am so incredibly thankful for that!

 

Maybe for you today you think about your church and you realize in a difficult time of your life this is a place where you found healing and hope.  You found healing here.  You’re a different person because in you met the Lord here; in a service of weekly worship, or in the melody and words of a hymn or anthem, in something that was said in a sermon or in Sunday school class or Bible study.

 

How do I not express my gratitude for that?  That’s where it all begins.  We’re talking about a vision for the future, and I believe that vision for the future for us begins grounded in a sense of gratitude; grounded in our thanksgiving to God.

 

When I consider all that I personally have been given, when I see how Jesus is a part of life, of my family, of my church family, how He has blessed us and cared for us I want to respond in gratitude.  And one of the best ways I know to respond in gratitude is in what I give of myself and of my resources.

 

You know what I’m thinking about as we’ve been asking you to pray about what our response will be to our vision as a church and this stewardship and capital campaigns?  You know what I’m thinking about?  I’m thinking about my grandchildren.  Many many years from now.  But I’m thinking about my grandchildren.  And if this is Robbie and Ricky and Ryan’s home church, then many years from now, maybe even after I’m gone this may very well be where they’re raising their families in x number of years from now my grandchildren may be sitting right out there.  They may be causing trouble in Sunday school, or in the KUC preschool.  I want to get ready for them.  I want to be ready for them.

 

I want to express my gratitude for all that God has given to me by making sure that my grandchildren have a place – and if they’re my biological that are here, great.  But you know what?  I think about your children and your grandchildren.  I think about the children and grandchildren at Rolling Ridge School and Sterling Elementary and Sterling Middle and Park View High School and all through the neighborhoods of Sterling Park and beyond now and in years to come and I want to get ready for them.  I want to make sure that they have a place where they can come and they can receive the same kinds of things that I received as a boy, and the same kinds of things that my boys have received here.

 

That they can have children’s workers and youth workers and Sunday school teachers and nursery care givers who will love them and bring them in; who will provide programs for them so that they can come to know and to love this Jesus.

 

That’s what I’m thinking about when I think about our vision for the future, about these campaigns.  It’s not just about dollars and cents.  It’s not just about bricks and mortar.  It’s about people, children, all God’s children and the impact that we can have on their lives and on his community.

 

And I want to be able to express my gratitude, to be like that Samaritan leper who went back and said, “Jesus you have done so much for me, you have touched me and healed me in so many ways, you have blessed me in so many ways, I just want to offer my thanks.”

 

I don’t know what you’re going to put on your cards but I know what it will be big because our God is big and He doesn’t just do little stuff for us.  He does big things for us.  And it’s easy, isn’t it to be able to offer our gratitude.

 

And we do that with our words and we do that with our actions.  What are you grateful for today?

How do you answer that question?  I want to give you the opportunity to do that today.  In your bulletin this morning you found one of these gratitude cards.  As you prepare to come forward this morning to receive this ultimate expression and reminder of what the Lord has done for us I want you to prayerfully write on this card something that you are grateful for.  We are going to make an offering of gratitude.

 

As you come to the front I want you to bring your gratitude cards with you.  There are two baskets here for you to use to place them in.  You may fill them out while others are receiving communion.  There will also be a basket at the back of the sanctuary in case you need more time and would like to place it there as you leave this morning just as way of saying thank you for God’s gifts.

 

Also some of you who have already received a visit for the capital campaign will be making your pledges of support.  Thank you for that!  Every gift that is made will help to enable us to accomplish something big for the honor and glory of God.  You may also place those cards in the basket as well and they will be separated out later.

 

Let me end with this.   In 1971 gospel singer and song writer Andrae Crouch inspired by the words of the great Fanny Crosby hymn we sang at the beginning of our service, To God Be the Glory, woke up one morning after having read a passage the night before from John 17 and penned the words to a song that has become one of the best known and most recorded gospel songs in recent history.  The song really is nothing more than a very powerful expression of personal gratitude.  And it is a song that has always been one that penetrates and touches me deep in my heart and soul.  And you know when I hear it I can just picture that Samaritan leper lifting his voice and singing this song.

 

And you know what, maybe you haven’t been cleansed of leprosy, but perhaps your life has been touched and transformed in some other way.  Maybe God has turned your life around, delivered you from some impossible circumstance, given you hope when all hope seemed lost, or time after time He has granted you forgiveness for your sins and failures.  I don’t know.  But I do know this, that for every single one of you he has provided for your needs, given you a comfortable life, a home, a family, your health, your job, and so much more.  And this song is your song and it is my song.  And it is simply called, My Tribute.

 

“My Tribute”
Andraé Crouch

 

How can I say thanks for the things
You have done for me?
Things so undeserved yet you gave
To prove your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am, and ever hope to be
I owe it all to thee

To God be the glory, to God be the glory
To God be the glory for the things he has done
With his blood he has saved me
With his power he has raised me
To God be the glory for the things he has done

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