Sermon - Ordinary 28 Year C - | RCL Resources Index | DBHome |

Giving thanks, Eucharist in life, for life

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. {16} He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:15-16).

Jesus asked the disciples, and those standing by, about the one who returned to give thanks, praising God. The focus of attention was on the fact that this man, a Samaritan, a foreigner, was loudly proclaiming his praise of God for what had happened to him: when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.

Jesus did not commend him directly for giving thanks, but for giving praise to God. You will see that he was not giving a lesson in politeness. Nor was he commending him for saying thank you to Jesus who had been the agent of God's blessing in healing him, although he was personally grateful to Jesus and expressed his personal faith or devotion, throwing himself down at Jesus' feet; but the thing that Jesus pointed out was that he praised God for what had happened to him.

It is important to see that it was not a lesson a politeness: as if, like us with our children, he was teaching people the good manners of saying thank you. You know how it is: we sometimes do this to children. When you give a child something and when he or she takes it we say to the child, "Say, 'Thank you'!" It wasn't like that. It was about an attitude of praise to God, about praising and giving glory to God, like this man, who when he found he was healed turned back praising God. His attitude that Jesus took up was one of joyful thanksgiving, but also of humility and most especially of one of being pleased to acknowledge the source of the great blessing he had received. He rightly directed his praise to the source of all blessings, to God his creator and redeemer.

Jesus took special note of him for the way in which he was different from the other nine. The difference is pointed out in the conclusion that Luke gives to the story when he reports Jesus saying.

Instead of saying "your faith has made you well", we could say in English "your faith has saved you". The word translated "healed" also means "saved". The broader meaning sums up the real distinction between him and the others who were also cured of their disease. This man had reached a state of grace which the others had not, he was "made well" or "saved" or made "whole" in a more profound sense; and yet they were healed too. How was it different? Jesus said to him in a very distinctive way your faith has made you well. Were the others not healed by faith? Was his healing different somehow? How was this man made whole in a way that was different from the others who were also with healed of their disease?

It is sometimes an unnecessary distraction for preachers to go on about the meaning of Greek works in which the Gospel was written, as if the plain language people speak today was not good enough to bring us the true meaning of what Jesus said; but it does help in this case to know a little more about what it was is that was translated for us in this passage as "made well". One of the most important points to grasp in understanding the story is, as we have noted, that the word for being "made whole", or "made well", or being "healed" is the same as the word for "being saved". In the days when Jesus was speaking, they believed that illness was the result of a power of evil, an evil spirit or some consequence of sin, so someone who was healed was saved from the power of evil or forgiven. For example when Jesus healed the paralytic man who was let down through the roof on a stretcher, he said,

The relationship of illness to a desire to be set free from something evil, to be made safe, can still be felt today, when people in anguish cry out, "Let me be free of this thing!" Do they not have the same sense of liberation, of being saved, when they recover from a serious illness, much as they would if they were under the power of an evil person from whom they wished to be free and managed to escape?

We still have this sense of "healing" being in the same group of ideas as being "set free of some evil" or "being saved from bad consequences". It is in the old word "salve", a healing ointment. It is same idea too that appears at other points in scripture, sometimes in relation to the healing miracles and sometimes not. Remember the woman who reached out and touched the fringe of his cloak as he was moving through the crowd; and how Jesus said to her, "Your faith has made you well" (Luke 8:48). There is another example in which he said the same thing to a women who had not had any physical disease. There was no physical healing in the case of the woman regarded as a notable sinner who came to Jesus and anointed his feet with expensive perfume and washed them with her tears. She was criticized for the extravagance, but Jesus praised her and said "Your faith has saved you" - or "Your faith is made you whole" (Luke 7:50). However you say it, she was restored to a new life, liberated from an old life in which evil had dominated her. Then being healed, or being saved, or being restored, or being liberated from the affects of sin was basically the same thing for her.

Now, what do we learn from this Samaritan, this foreigner to the Jews, who was distinguished because when he was healed he turn back and loudly, praised God, thankfully acknowledging through Jesus the source of his blessings? The others were healed of their physical diseases too, but they had not apparently experienced that same liberation, they showed no evidence of the same knowledge of God as the source of their blessings. It seems that they just did indeed do as Jesus told them: they went on their way to show themselves to the priests so that they could be admitted to normal society again, according to the law (Leviticus 13:45-46; Luke 5:14), healed of their skin disease. They certainly knew that Jesus was the agent of their healing as they had hoped he would be, when they called out to him, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" But they had not as a result entered into a new relationship with God, at least not in the same way as the one who returned to give thanks. This was the most distinctive emphasis that Jesus made about the foreigner: he now entered a new relationship in which he knew God in Christ as his healer and saviour. He now had faith in what God was doing in the work of Jesus, and especially in God's accepting him.

He who had been treated as an outsider now knew himself to be inside the covenant, the special relationship with God, like a member of the family as we were saying of the children of God last week. Indeed he had been doubly an outsider: first because he was a leper who must live on the edge of the community, not allowed into the city; and secondly because as a Samaritan he was regarded by the Jews at that time as outside the people of God. Now Jesus is able to make plain for all to see that this most unlikely son of Abraham has received the blessing of being restored, not only to health, but to God.

The foreigner, the Samaritan, the one Jesus took as a good example, is an example to us today also, in his attitude of thanksgiving. He is a model of Christian living in which praise of God for his blessing and heartfelt thankfulness should be a continuing response to what God has done for us in Christ. As Paul put it to the Ephesians:

I don't suppose many people literally go around in their daily lives singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, not many, though some do, but you do get the point about the attitude of praise and thanksgiving that is meant by singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts. I must confess that I find it difficult quite often, as I expect you do sometimes, not to fall into despair rather than making melody to the Lord in your hearts. Life is a serious business, and often enough, if we are honest in our faith, we are constrained to call out as the lepers did, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." Yet the recovery of life with God, being set free from the power of evil to corrupt us in body, mind or spirit, is an experience open to us in faith, in this life, however incomplete our response. The offer is there. The assurance that it is possible is given to us in the Gospel.

Please understand, I am not talking about psyching ourselves up to be happy. There is enough nonsense in the media and all those self help books to give us more than we need of positive thinking, let alone artificially promoted self esteem. This message from the Gospel not about putting ourselves in the right frame of mind regardless of what is happening to us; and it is certainly not about giving a religious colour to a psychological pep talk - and I am a psychologist, so I do not dismiss its value in helping people to a more positive view of life, but when it works it must be realistically based, related to what is going on in our world. The message is not about how we respond, so much as it is about seeing clearing the reality that is affecting us. The reality that the leper confronted was his actual healing, the blessing he had received from God. He did not, suddenly, while going on his way, decide to take a positive, thankful view of his life; he responded in gratitude to what God had done for him. That can be our situation too. If we can be aware of what God has done for us, there are good realistic reasons to be thankful. It is what God has done for us that is the ground of our faith and the stimulus to our worship.

Jesus gave us some help in how to do this. He did more than provide a good example of praising God and being thankful for his blessings. One way is to tell others about it. Letting other people know the good news clarifies it for ourselves. Another way is to share the good news in service to others, letting them know in action how pleased you are with what God has done for you, as we say in one the prayers after communion, "So strengthen us in your service that our daily living may show our thanks." But the most effective and constant help in maintaining an attitude of praise and thanksgiving is in Christian worship, especially in the central act we call the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper in which we have Holy Communion. Jesus gave us this way, his gift and command: Do this in remembrance of me; and we are thankful (eucharistos).

When we call the Lord's Supper "the Eucharist" we are using the Greek word for being thankful. When Luke tells us that the man in the gospel story returned praising God and fell down at the feet of Jesus and thanked him he used that same word: eucharist [literally euchariston auto, he thanked him, from eu meaning good or well and charis meaning gift or favour, as in charity and charismatic]. We celebrate God's greatest gift, the gift of wholeness and salvation, of being in a new and right relationship God, with thanksgiving. We offer "The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving", the Eucharistic prayer, as we set aside the bread and wine for their holy purpose, recalling the great gifts of God in creating us, providing for us, revealing his Word to us, and especially for the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like the man in the story we approach Jesus in the Eucharist praising and giving glory to God, and then in deep humility we thank him for the new life into which he has called us. Here then is the means of constantly maintaining that thankfulness for new life, in this life -- thankfulness for our well being, our health and wholeness, our liberation from the power of sin, our being saved. All praise and glory be to God, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

RCL Resources Index |

| DBHome | Christian Beliefs | Family History | Public Affairs | Higher Ed Research | Hobbies and Interests | Issues in the UCA | Personal Background | Psychological Research | Templestowe UC | Worship and Preaching |