Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/12/17 Sermon - Recognizing Blessings

“Recognizing Blessings”

Luke 17: 11-19


Today we are recognizing Thanksgiving, a week in advance, as we will be starting Advent next week which should keep us on schedule for Christmas in six weeks. What an excellent way to begin our Thanksgiving service with the dedication of a child, who has been a blessing to everyone here. If you are like me, you may be finding it sometimes difficult to recognize the blessings now a days.

When we take a look around, listen to the media, or watch television, we are bombarded with events that have more to do with worry and fear. Our economy remains unstable, our Congress is gridlocked, there are wars going on around the globe and churchgoers in America are being killed. And yet, even though lament may be the more common response to these events, I am going to encourage you today to seek thanksgiving.

Today’s passage from Luke demonstrates precisely why I think that responding in thanksgiving should be our first response. Let me show you why.


We find Jesus, again, crossing boundaries that a “good” Jewish man should not be crossing and wandering where he probably should not be and healing people with whom he has no business interacting. This time he has encountered ten such people. A mini colony of lepers. Not only was this group of men unclean and outcast from society because of their leprosy at least one of the men was also a Samaritan. Jews did not associate with Samaritans, as they perceived them as like “dogs.” So you have Jesus traveling back to Jerusalem, by way of the Samaritan border. A group of ten lepers notice him and keeping themselves at a safe distance, they are forced to yell to be heard. They shout, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Jesus sees them, and immediately responds with,
“Go, show  yourselves to the priests.”

And as they were doing what Jesus had said, they were cleansed of their infirmity. No more sores! No more leprosy! They didn’t even make it to the priest! One of the ten notices he no longer has leprosy and turns back to express his gratitude to Jesus. As soon as he catches up with Jesus, he drops to his knees at Jesus’ feet and worships Jesus to give thanks.


Freeze frame, for a moment.

I want to clarify that the other nine men did nothing wrong. In fact, they did exactly what Jesus had asked of them. And by doing so, they received the blessing Jesus promised them. They went home cleansed from leprosy. What a blessing!


But the man who returned to Jesus to share his gratitude comes out with a second blessing. By expressing his gratefulness his interaction with Jesus concludes with Jesus not only make him physically well, but spiritually well, and saved.

Which is what is meant by the Greek word used by Jesus when He says “your faith has made you well.”


The man who takes the time and energy to return to Jesus and say thank you, receives two blessings. The blessing of healing, just like the other nine men and the blessing of wholeness or salvation. Because the man was willing to not only recognize he had been blessed, but also respond by giving thanks for that blessing, he was doubly blessed.


This double blessing happens still today. Have you ever been eating with family or friends, the kind of meal where time seemed to stand still and you experience a sense of togetherness that makes you feel great to be there? Then one of you raises your glass and makes a toast, “This time has been great, the meal, the friends, thank you.” And by doing so, everyone has been blessed again by recognizing it.


Just this week, I was doubly blessed by one of the tenants of Stepping Stone. As you may know, I work part-time as the Executive Director of Stepping Stone Housing, Inc. here in Damariscotta. Our non-profit organization offers housing to low-income individuals so they can afford to live in our area. This week I was visiting one of the gentlemen that rents from us. I asked him how he was doing. And his response stopped me in time. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I can’t remember the last time I ever felt so comfortable, thank you.” Wow! I responded with, “You’re welcome,” but as I went to my vehicle, that simple statement reaffirmed why I was doing what I was doing. I was blessed.


Thanksgiving is like that. When we not only take time to recognize the blessing, but then take time to articulate our gratitude,

sight and word,

together…

gives a second blessing.

Gratitude is an emotion that takes us out of ourselves and into something bigger, something that allows us to share again, in the blessing. How often do we shy away from giving gratitude because of fear or inadequacy when, yet if we did, we would experience even more of a blessing? It had to have been difficult for a Samaritan man to return and pay homage, knowing that Samaritans and even healed lepers were not supposed to talk to Jewish rabbis. And yet, this man’s gratitude overcame his fear and resulted in him experiencing not only healing but acceptance as a child of God, whole and beautiful, just the way he was.


And that is what the other nine men missed. Although they had done nothing wrong, they did not recognize their blessing and then voice their blessing and thus missed out on being made completely whole.


So what about us… today? This past week I had an interesting conversation with Carol Miller.

As many of you know, she had a terrible accident last Sunday after church coming out of the elevator. She managed to break the humerus in her right arm and fracture the shoulder socket. I called her on Monday to see how she was doing and her first response was she was “counting her blessings.” I responded with “How many did you count?” She had quite a few, because she refused to focus on the accident and instead, focus on the people who assisted her and how blessed she really is.


Our world is full of troubles, but it is also filled with lots of blessings. We have families who care for each other, co-workers that lend a hand, schools where teachers and principals care about their pupils and even though our government is far from perfect, we live in a country where citizens have a level of freedom and opportunity that surpasses other countries, we have service people who are often called to put their lives on the line, abroad and in our neighborhood, and a church where we can come and hear God’s Word and worship, freely.

So there you have it.

The world is full of blessings

and challenges.

And although there is a time for us to cry and shout for justice, there are just as many times, if not more, for us to give thanks. This Thanksgiving season, let us remember the 10th leper, and let us be someone who responds with thankfulness and shares words of gratitude and not only experience a second blessing for ourselves, but shares it with those around us.


Let’s pray.