Sometimes, often – usually – God asks us to work with Him in answering our prayers. We ask to be healed in body, and yet we are to make wise choices about our health and go to doctors. We ask for forgiveness, and yet we must accept forgiveness and give it to others.
In Luke 17:11-19, the 10 lepers who asked to be healed also had to work with Jesus in order to be healed, for when they asked Him to have mercy, He simply said: “Go show yourselves to the priests.” This would be like you crying out to God to heal you and God saying “Go, get yourself to a doctor.”
Now the sad fact is that many of us lepers wouldn’t have even made it as far as the 9 unthankful lepers. Before they were healed, they at least obeyed Jesus and went to show themselves to the priests. But we expect God to heal us without our having to lift a finger. We want the dramatic and instantaneous miracles that really Wow! us. And most of the time we don’t get them. God says, “Do your part. Go show yourselves to the priests.” And we are unwilling.
Many people in the U.S. today, the most prosperous nation that has ever existed, cry out to God to deliver them from debt, expecting pennies – or $20 bills – to rain down from heaven. But the God to whom we pray says back to us: “Then be a wise steward of what I have already given you.” We ask to be miraculously delivered from debt entirely by the will of God and without employing our will at all to do God’s will. We want to be delivered from debt while still indulging in a lifestyle that can only continue to produce debt. We want God to give us more money, while we are still wasting what He has already given.
What good is it to pray to be delivered from bondage to debt while steadfastly choosing to remain enslaved to the sin that often produces debt? We ask God for more money, and yet we are not willing to deny ourselves anything, continuing to spend more than we should on entertainment (movies, music, cable TV, etc.), cigarettes, eating out, vacations, a new wardrobe, gadgets, a bigger house, and a newer car. We don’t have a God-given right to any of those things, and yet we are offended if God tells us that they are the very things we must give up to work with Him in answering our own prayers.
Often, God heals us without our even asking to be healed. He constantly showers His good gifts upon us, often not waiting to hear us ask. And yet much of the time we don’t give God thanks. What is going on here?
The truth is that we don’t thank God for His good gifts because we either mistakenly believe that we have gotten these good things for ourselves or that they were owed to us anyway, or we simply don’t believe it’s very important. After all, no one is obligated to thank someone else for something he did for himself. Only if you recognize every good thing in life as a gift of grace will you have a reason to give thanks.When you have the attitude of the servant in Luke 17:10 (from yesterday’s lesson), after you have done all that God has commanded you, that you are an unprofitable servant who has only done what the Master commanded, then any reward or gift you receive will be received with thanks. Any gift is then understood to be from the grace of God and not His obligation to us.
In today’s lesson, however, only one of the 10 healed lepers returns to Jesus to give thanks, and he is a Samaritan. Only one of them understood the Giver, the gift, and the recipient properly. His response is to be ours, for his response was one of sacrifice. In the Old Testament, after visiting the priest, an animal sacrifice for uncleanness had to be made. But in the New Covenant, the sacrifice has changed along with the covenant. The sacrifice that God now demands of His people is not the blood of bulls or goats but a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and this is just what the 1 leper gives.
In verse 15 we find him coming back to the one who healed him, seeking Him out, and glorifying God the Father with a loud voice. Here is his sacrifice of praise for who God is and what He has done through His Son. In verse 16 we find him falling down on his face and giving thanks, which is the other part of his and our sacrifice.
Every morning and evening in the Old Testament a sacrifice had to be offered up for the people, and every morning and evening we should offer up our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. In fact, this is where the idea of Morning and Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer comes from.
Especially, we are to give thanks to God and praise His name in the Holy Communion, which is also called the Eucharist. Eucharist was the preferred name for the Lord’s Supper in the early church, and it means “thanksgiving.” Jesus offers Himself and His salvation to us through His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and we offer back to him our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
So remember today to return to your Creator, Healer, and Savior, and offer up your sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
Point for Meditation:
- Have you been apathetically receiving God’s good gifts without remembering to thank Him? What are some things that God is calling you to give thanks for? They might be some of His routine (but never “ordinary”) gifts that have been given by Him so faithfully that you’ve forgotten to give thanks.
- If you have been complaining recently, spend some time thinking about the good things that God has given you.
- As you give thanks to God for His gifts, allow your thanksgiving to turn into extra time spent in His presence in some way.
Resolution/Prayer: Lord, remind me to return to You today to offer up my daily sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Make me truly thankful for all of the good gifts You have given to me this day and every day, and help me not to think of them as coming from myself. On the day you have set aside as the Lord’s Day to participate in the Resurrection of our Lord, help me especially to remember my sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson