The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah initiates his presentation by giving unexpected advice (Jeremiah 29:1,4-7). Jeremiah encourages the Jewish exiles in Babylon to settle down and live as normally as possible in their captor’s land. There was a disturbing new reality in the wake of the Israelites’ exile from Palestine (587 B.C), and Jeremiah’s message was to make the best out of an otherwise bad situation. In this way, Jeremiah told the people to get over their complaining and to live in an optimistic and pragmatic manner.
Fast-forward to the present and we can feel like we face our own exile as pilgrims in an unholy land. We chafe against the constant of change that can arouse our fear. The result is that we, as the people of God, can be tempted to live life in a disappointing disarray. Even the church can feel like a lost colony wherein we try to stop time and avoid the change pressing against us. A theme emerges in that we, like those ancient Jews, can’t always change our larger circumstances but we can adjust our attitude and behavior such that we can cope and thrive.
A mini-theme about change emerges in this discussion. Our culture evolves and we have a choice to either be in denial or to find some way to adapt to ever-changing reality. True, not all change is good, but we owe it to ourselves to nurture positive changes because change is inevitable. Jeremiah advocated adapting with a positive attitude and gratitude. We, like the Israelite captives, need a word of encouragement about not only welcoming new realities but also in creating them. Through it all we can still have a great attitude against defeatism and despair.
The selection from Luke (17:11-19) also focuses on generating gratitude from a great attitude. The setting involves Jesus entering a village where he was approached by a cadre of lepers. The group of afflicted men cried to Jesus for healing, and Jesus healed them. After being healed, the ten men departed and went about their way. The story might have ended there were it not for the reappearance of one of the lepers, a man who demonstrated something forgotten by the remaining nine: gratitude.
The selections from Luke and Jeremiah coalesce around a message of making the best out of a situation. Have you ever asked God for something? Did you get what you asked for? Whether or not you got what you wanted, it would be good to demonstrate your great attitude through gratitude. We can thank God that we have plenty of blessings to share with people both inside and outside the church. Our wonderful attitude might even become infectious, such that we can draw people into our congregation and they will share the joy of our faith fellowship. What a way to celebrate change!