Gratitude arises from a proper attitude. That’s the gist of today’s message woven from Jeremiah and Luke.
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah (29:1,4-7) initiates our message by encouraging the Jewish exiles in Babylon to settle down and leverage their spiritual resources. There was a disturbing new reality in the wake of the Israelites’ exile from Palestine (587 B.C), and Jeremiah’s message encouraged the captives to make the best out of a deplorable situation. In this way, Jeremiah told the people to stop complaining and to live in an optimistic and practical manner.
Fast-forward to the present and many people today continue to act like exasperated exiles. Angry voices rise, adding to the rancor without making any positive, peaceful progress. Even the church can feel like a lost colony wherein we try to stop progress and avoid both personal and institutional transformation. Also problematic is how malcontents expend more energy bickering than bettering themselves. There’s also the problem when people choose a living death rather than embrace inevitable change. The result is that we, as the people of God, can be tempted to live within a choking mediocrity. A theme emerges from Jeremiah which suggests that we can’t always customize our circumstances to suit our immediate preferences. Yet we can adjust our attitude and behavior as a way to survive and thrive.
The invitation of transformation continues to invite our response. American culture evolves and we have a choice to either live in denial or to find some way to adapt to an ever-changing reality. True, not all change is good, but we owe it to ourselves to experiment and nurture positive growth because situations will not stay the same. Jeremiah advocated a positive attitude paired with 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 spread a wonderful attitude against defeatism and despair.
The selection from Luke (17:11-19) also focuses on gratitude arising from a great attitude. Jesus had just entered a village when he was approached by ten lepers crying for help. The group of afflicted men begged Jesus, and he began the healing process. In the midst of their miraculous recovery, the ten men departed without even saying “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, he was enthusiastic (visualize him jumping up and down yelling). This episode has even greater impact because the grateful 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 people may not always show it.
The selections from Luke and Jeremiah coalesce around a message of making the best out of a situation and being grateful. Have you ever asked God for something? Did you get what you asked for and were you asking for it in an appreciative manner? Whether or not you got what you wanted, it’s beneficial to demonstrate a great attitude through gratitude. Everyone can afford gratitude, from the poorest of souls up to the richest of billionaires. Gratitude takes just so little effort but it provides a fantastic return on your investment.
Gratitude requires that we recognize and express something positive about a blessing. It isn’t always easy to be thankful or to respond with sufficient enthusiasm. But we must try! We feed spiritual and psychological health by cultivating a great attitude, and part of that turns on how we are willing to demonstrate gratitude. We can thank God that we are blessed and as we do so we may recognize additional blessings. 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 both create and celebrate what God is accomplishing. –Reverend Larry Hoxey