by Rev. Dr. Krista S. Givens
Many thanks to Pastor Jimmy for filling the pulpit last week while I was at a Conference in Phoenix. While there, I met with more than 200 women in non-profit leadership. It was a great time to learn and to network, to connect with others who are doing good in the world. As I pulled myself apart for the weekend, I found I was able to focus on one task. I was not distracted by phone calls, emails, people needing to talk to me, Po barking at me to walk her, my endless to-do list. I was able to sit, listen, breathe and learn. I admit it. I am more often than not….distracted…..
Question for you: What can your phone do? (call; text; keeps my calendar; takes photos; plays music, books and podcasts; plays TV shows and movies, plays games; address book; alarm clock… what else?) Each new function has its own sound, buzz, vibrate mode… demanding your time and attention.
In an article in Forbes Magazine, Maura Thomas (author of Attention Management) writes: “When your device is always on and you change what you’re doing in response to every incoming notification, you never get the quiet, uninterrupted time you need to get in “flow”—that immersive, highly focused state where you both do your best work, and you feel most satisfied by your work.” (1)
So when we see a story about people who forgot to say “thank you,” I sympathize. Perhaps they were thinking about something else. Perhaps their phones beeped and rang and they got distracted. Perhaps they were on their way to the next meeting, the next appointment, the next.. whatever…
Let’s look at this story from Luke 17, beginning at verse 11: So, what happened?
Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem and he was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. Now, as previously stated in previous stories, Jesus was traveling an untraditional route. As the Samaritan women at the well mentions to Jesus in John chapter 4, Jews and Samaritans do not interact with each other. So the traditional route is to go around Samaria to get to Jerusalem. Why?
(It was quicker, more direct. But also, the laws of separating the clean and unclean were not important rules for Jesus. Jesus is trying to teach us over and over again, that no one is unclean in the eyes of God.)
As Jesus enters the village, ten lepers approached him. The leprosy we read about here and in other parts of the Bible is not the Hansen’s disease we know as leprosy today. “It seems to have been rather a term for a range of skin diseases which are assumed to be contagious. It meant being isolated from the rest of the community as ‘unclean’.” (2)
In the Old Testament, having a skin ailment was thought to affect everything: clothing and houses, everything one touched. And because modern cures were unknown, the way to deal with disease, was to isolate the person. These diseases had physical, religious, and social implications. “Curing” them — usually called “cleansing” or “purifying” required examination by the priest to determine the physical healing and to restore the religious and social status of the person. (3)
So, keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean.
And they went on their way to be restored back to life: they have been identified by the community as being unclean and dangerous, now they are made clean and restored to their places around tables, in their own beds, hugged by family , back into the arms of those they love.
“I’m certain that all ten former-lepers believed something about their healing. We see the faith in the one whose beliefs made a difference in the way he acted. I find it ironic that for him to return and glorify God by thanking Jesus, he had to disobey the command from Jesus to go show himself to the priest! When might our thanksgivings to Jesus mean going against what is deemed good and proper?” (4)
The second part of the story is demonstration to the audience the reaction Jesus expects. What is our response to be?
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
The place to praise God is at the feet of Jesus. Faith, beyond being a response of thanksgiving, is seeing the connection between praising God and worshiping (illustrated by falling on one’s face at his feet) and thanking Jesus.
However, author Brian Stoffregen notes, Luke may be telling us a bit more in verse 16. The Greek word used here for “thanks” is eucharisteo. (what word does that look like? It is the root of the word Eucharist.) This word is used four times in Luke. Twice it is used of Jesus “giving thanks” over the cup and the bread in the upper room (22:17, 19). So here we connect praising God with participating in the “eucharist” — an act of thanksgiving in the presence of Jesus. (5)
Ten were deemed unclean by their physical ailment, ten were separated from the community, ten were forgiven and healed but only one returned to say thanks.
Now, the other nine, may have BEEN GRATEFUL. They may have walked all the way to Jerusalem praising God, singing songs of joy, talking about their amazing experience and how their lives would be changed. But they did not take the opportunity to return to Jesus and say thanks.
We have been given so many blessings. We are forgiven, accepted into the family of God, blessed with family and friends that love and support us through good times and bad. German theologian Meister Eckhardt famously said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Today, let us return to the feet of Jesus to say, “Thank you.” Amen.
- Roger Dean Duncan, “Do Distractions Wreck Your Day? Here’s a Smart Fix” found on https://www.forbes.com/sites/rodgerdeanduncan/2019/10/08/do-distractions-wreck-your-day-heres-a-smart-fix/#7f1040484bce
- William Loader, found on http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LkPentecost21.htm
- Brian Stoffregen, found on http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/luke17x11.htm