“Heart of Gratitude”
“…and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:16
Snoopy is getting dog food for his Thanksgiving Day dinner, and he is aware that everyone else in the family is inside having turkey. He meditates and talks to himself: “How about that? Everyone is eating turkey today, but just because I am a dog I get dog food.” He trots away and positions himself on top of his doghouse and concludes: “Of course, it could have been worse, I could have been born a turkey!”
I don’t know snoopy personally, but from what I read of him I conclude that he is not just saying thanks, he really has a heart of thanks…bug difference! Tucked in the gospel of Luke is a story that can easily be read over. On the road somewhere between Samaria and Galilee Jesus meets ten men with leprosy. Because custom and law required that they keep their distance, they could only cry out, “Have mercy on us!” Whether they were seeking a few dollars or knew of Jesus reputation as a healer is not known in the text. Mercy is an admission on their part that they are in a desperate condition and ready to receive whatever charity another might provide.
Luke tells us, When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Maybe there was more to the exchange, scripture doesn’t tell us, and all we know is that as they were on the way to do just what Jesus said to do, they were all cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.
I imagine this scene in my mind’s eye—Jesus stops and the small entourage shuffles to a stop, some with looks of surprise on their faces. Then Jesus asks—weren’t there ten that were cleansed, so where are the other nine? The fact that there were cleansed is news to the group, because it happened on the way! Head scratcher! “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Not just your ordinary foreigner either, I might add. A despicable, disgusting Samaritan of a foreigner. Jesus is making a point, obviously. Gratitude is important to him. I like what Gordon MacDonald ways about this event—“The story is there for one reason: to underscore the importance of gratitude as the completion of the experience…gratitude is “turning back” to the scene of the event and acknowledging what has happened and who made it happen.” (A Resilient Life, p 134)
That is a heart of gratitude. It is a deep realization that I neither merit nor are entitled to such a gracious expression. And I believe that it starts with the simple things. Thomas Kelly a Quaker mystic (1874-1941) once wrote: “We pray for big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from him the little things?”
November reminds us that gratitude and thankfulness is a regular and necessary part of our spiritual journey. Ove the course of the next 30 days I encourage you to express your thankfulness to the God of grace for all the ordinary, small gifts. Be that guy who came back!!
Blessings on the journey,