Sunday 13 October 2013

The Power of Thanks

What a wonderful morning we had at St Andrew's today. It was great to welcome Orson and Victoria, who were baptised in the service, and all their family and friends. There was a lovely atmosphere of warmth and celebration, and it was brilliant to see so many kids in church. I just want to say a great big thank you, to everyone who took part and to the Lord we love and serve, who was so gently but palpably present with His people.

Which is very appropriate because our theme today was The Power of Thanks. We were looking at the story of the ten lepers in the Gospel, the ones who come to Jesus asking to be healed. He tells them to go and see the priests (which is what you are supposed to do when you have already been healed of leprosy according to Leviticus chapter 14). But they never get there. While they are still on their way to the priest, doing what Jesus told them to do, healing comes...

But only one of them comes back to say Thank You to Jesus. The Bible doesn't tell us his name, so we decided to call him Wayne, because he was leper number 10, and Wayne Rooney wears a no.10 shirt. What difference did it make though when Wayne came back? We thought there were four things that come out of the story and demonstrate the power of thanks.

1. Saying thank you reminds you that life is amazing! Presumably the other nine just returned to the ordinary things that had made up their lives before leprosy cut them off so cruelly from the rest of the community. By coming back to say thank you, Wayne stayed with the miracle! It was amazing to have his life back and he overflowed with that amazement. We had Orson with us and we decided that Orson was awesome. Because with the birth of every new child we have to decide whether it's all just so much biology cycling mindlessly through, or whether we have just taken part in a miracle. We are all living that miracle - even if your birth like mine was rather a long time ago, we wouldn't be here without it. When we give thanks we realise afresh that life is awesome.

2. Saying thank you establishes a relationship. When we are in a restaurant we can ignore the person who brings our food, prepares the table, takes away the dirty dishes and so on. After all, they're being paid. But if we say "thank you" to them, we are treating them as a person, not as a faceless nonentity. By coming back to see Jesus, Wayne showed he didn't only want to get healed, he also wanted to know the Healer. When he loudly praised God, he wanted to relate his healing to God's love for him. In fact Christians can't separate a personal relationship with God from an encounter with Jesus. When Wayne wanted to give thanks to God, he came back and met with Jesus.

3. Saying thank you changes your attitudes. I find myself a bit too given to moping, sulking and self-pity, sometimes too much of a glass half empty person. Wayne could easily have spent his time bemoaning the terrible experience he had been through as a leper, asking what was it all for, if God wanted to heal him why had He left it so long, and so on. Maybe some of those thoughts went through the minds of the other nine. But all Wayne wanted to do was say thank you for such a wonderful new start! His glass was full and running over. Mine is too really, if I stop to think about it. I need to take a leaf out of Wayne's book and start thanking God. I have far more blessings than things to moan about. Saying thank you makes you more positive, because it changes your attitude.

4. Saying thank you lifts your faith level. The other lepers showed amazing faith by just going off to see the priests when as yet they were still not healed. But only Wayne came back to say thank you. So only Wayne was there to receive the affirming words of Jesus: "Your faith has healed you. Go in peace." Wayne had his faith built up when he gave thanks. And our faith gets built up too, because when we give thanks we are also reminding ourselves of what God has done for us, and therefore of how much He loves us and how He is able to work in our lives. Saying thank you lifts your faith level.

So what have you got to say thank you for today?

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