Sermon for Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23, Year C

Sunday, October 9, 2022

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c                          Psalm 111                            2 Timothy 2:8-15                               Luke 17:11-19

          Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one returns to give thanks.  Jesus asks, “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?” As with any parable, there are many lessons for us in this story, but I want to focus on what this might say about giving thanks.

          Upon realizing they were healed, only one of the ten men returns to give thanks.  There are lots and lots of reasons we have for failing to say thank you.  Some of us look at what others have been given and feel we weren’t given enough – we haven’t received our fair share.  We may receive a great gift and still feel resentment.

          Remember the parable of the landowner who finds a day laborer in the village who had not been hired that day.  He has already hired and put to work enough men for himself, but he has compassion and hires this man.  At noon, the landowner returns to the village and finds another man without work and hires him for the remainder of the day.  That afternoon and again near the end of the day, the landowner finds men in need of work and takes them to his fields.  When it comes time to pay them, the landowner pays all the workers the same amount.  The men he hired first are upset because they believe they, having worked more hours, should be paid more.  The landowner responds by telling them they have been paid, as agreed.  And, he says it is his right to be generous with his money and pay the other men a full day’s wages. 

          The fact is, being given an opportunity to earn enough to pay for an evening meal for all members of our family is a gift that many people then and now do not have.  Being compassionate and able to give, the landowner hires four men he doesn’t need, and pays them a full day’s wage so that they, too, will be able to feed their families.  Gratitude is the appropriate response from each of the laborers – not only for the work that day, but for the charity the landowner has extended to the men who had not been hired that day.  After all, none of us should want to see another go hungry because they lack the opportunity to work and we lack the resources to help them.

          I imagine some of the lepers Jesus healed, suffered from their disease longer than others and were angry that God didn’t heal them sooner – or they blamed God for their leprosy.  Why had God caused their suffering in the first place?  And why had God permitted them to suffer for as long as they did.  It was just not fair.

          Some of the lepers might have been thankful, but they were simply too excited to return and give thanks.  They, instead, rushed home to their families.  Only one man, a Samaritan, a foreigner, returns to Jesus.  Only one man makes a point of giving thanks to Jesus.  I wish to be more like him. 

          All of us here have been blessed by God in different ways that have enabled us to provide for ourselves.  We have so much to be thankful for, but we all tend to get distracted, or too focused on ourselves and what we want, to remember to be grateful for our blessings. Many of us think we have earned whatever we have and fail to recognize that the advantages of our good health, intellect, and/or our upbringing have made our achievements possible.  These are all gifts we have received.  Acknowledging what we have received is an important spiritual discipline that enables us to give thanks. 

          What we have, has been entrusted to us by God.  We are stewards of these gifts and these gifts are meant to be shared.  When we talk about stewardship, we are talking about how we use our gifts of time, talents, and money.  Over the course of the past several weeks, we have heard Jesus talk about how we are to use our gifts.  Jesus says we cannot serve God and wealth.  He teaches us the importance of using what we have to help others, and the importance of investing what has been entrusted to us.  

          This past week we had the first of what will be many dinners to discuss stewardship.  Those invited were asked to host one of these dinners.  We will continue having these dinners until everyone has been invited to one.  Our conversations are not about money, but about St. Paul’s – what it has to offer and what you’d like to see it offer.   What do you like about St. Paul’s and what would you like to see offered by St. Paul’s FOR YOU?  In short, what are we willing to do to further the ministries we offer?

          St. Paul’s is a gift to this community and to us.  It has been entrusted to us, its members, which means we are the stewards of this gift.  Each host is asked to facilitate a discussion and take notes.  I believe the results of these dinners will go beyond receiving your pledges.  I expect these dinners to shape the direction of St. Paul’s.  I expect to see new ministries arise.

          It was truly a delight to get together with members of St. Paul’s in a small group setting. The first dinner was held at a restaurant to accommodate a larger group and prepare the first set of hosts.   Subsequent dinners are expected to be for 4-6 couples depending on the location.  Please watch for your invitation and make every effort to attend – I believe you will enjoy it.  And, please let me know if you’d like to host a meal.  We have over eighty families to invite and I hope to have all dinners completed before Thanksgiving.

Our pledges may not be the focus of these meetings, but as stewards of St. Paul’s we do need your financial gifts to support our ministers.  Giving a percentage of what we are blessed to have received is not only an act of thanksgiving, it is part of a vital spiritual discipline which enables our faith to grow and develop.  Stewardship is not about giving what is left over – whether it is our time or our money, it is about accepting our responsibility to help St. Paul’s be the Body of Christ in our community. 

Let us pray.

          Loving and gracious God help us, we pray, to be mindful of the bounty of the gifts we have received.  Help us, we pray, to remember that you make all things possible and without the gifts you have entrusted to us, we would have nothing to give.  Inspire our hearts that we might use our blessings to fulfill your desires.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.