Message Supplement for Sunday 13 October: “Gratitude Attitude”

Gratitude is a great attitude. That’s the theme of today’s message from the Lectionary passages in Jeremiah 29:1,4-7 and Luke 17:11-19.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah encouraged his fellow Jewish exiles to settle down and make the best of a horrible situation.  There was a disturbing new reality in the wake of the Israelites’ deportation from Palestine to Babylon in the late sixth-century before Jesus.  Jeremiah’s message was a reminder that the exiles couldn’t change their circumstances, hence they should continue life and multiply, remaining grateful, thankful and positive even toward their captors. “ ‘Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper’ ” (Jeremiah 29: 7).

Jeremiah’s message to the persecuted Jewish refugees was his attempt to make the best out of a deplorable chapter in Jewish history.  It wasn’t helpful to complain and blame, even against the captors who had deported the Jews from their homeland.  Jeremiah therefore told his people to stop their defeatist attitude and instead to live in an optimistic and practical manner, despite control by a conquering enemy. Fast-forward two-and-a-half thousand years to the present, where too many malcontents continue to exist like exasperated exiles.  Life has never been easy, but just like in Jeremiah’s day, giving-up or turning negative isn’t the best response to challenges.

Jeremiah’s transforming message about a positive attitude continues to resonate.  People of faith today, like the Israelite captives of old, require encouragement while enduring less than ideal circumstances.  No matter where humans have walked the earth, life isn’t easy.  Whether ancient or modern, those who call themselves “people of faith” must not become nasty agitators, folks who expend more energy blaming others then they do looking in the mirror examining their own imperfections.  Far from expressing gratitude and graciousness, malcontents expend more effort bickering than bettering themselves. All this negativity disfigures people who end up embracing a living death rather than accepting God’s spirit.

Jeremiah’s message is a reminder that when people don’t get what they want they often raise angry voices, adding to the rancor of dissatisfaction that doesn’t solve the underlying problems.  Instead of leveraging faith and reason, many who claim God, religion and faith will instead demonstrate fear, ignorance and anger.  It becomes even worse when people within the Christian church misrepresent God’s message by scapegoating the poor, weak and sick.  Instead of demonstrating compassion, the soul-sick hypocrites prevent progress and subvert social justice, thereby forsaking the very God they falsely claim to represent.

Now a shift to the selection from Luke (17:11-19), which also emphasizes gratitude arising from a great attitude. The story begins when Jesus entered a village where he was approached by ten lepers crying for help. The group of afflicted men begged Jesus, after which he healed them.  The ten men then departed without saying so much as “thank-you.” The story might have ended there were it not for an unexpected reversal. “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice” (Luke 17:15). This cleansed leper was not only thankful but he was enthusiastic. This episode has even greater impact because this healed man was a Samaritan, a class of despised, so-called half-breed Jews. This great irony drives home the point that gratitude is expected, and that even God’s chosen people often fail to be thankful.

It isn’t always easy to express gratitude or to respond with sufficient enthusiasm to blessings. But never give up trying!  As if biblical examples of gratitude are not sufficient, scientific research confirms that a positive attitude promotes psychological health.  Gratitude is a way to recognize and express something positive, even during less than ideal times.  At any time you can thank God that you are blessed.  As you cultivate gratitude you’ll also spread an infectious positivity more likely to draw people into our family of faith where they will spiritually grow in our fellowship.

Gratitude is a great attitude!  The scripture from Luke and Jeremiah coalesce around the theme of being grateful even during bad situations.  One of the core lessons is that even when you don’t get what you want, but especially if you do, demonstrate a great attitude through gratitude. And there’s no excuse for avoiding gratitude because everyone can afford gratitude, from the poorest of paupers up through the most blessed of billionaires. Gratitude also provides a fantastic investment in building character and integrity.  How will you express gratitude today?

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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