“Gratitude: Yeah, That’ll Preach” Oct 9 2022
note to readers – The following sermon is the first of my efforts since a long period in the hospital and Rehab following a stroke and shattered femur, and so, the subject of gratitude seemed more than appropriate.
Oct. 9, 2022
“Gratitude- Yeah, That’ll Preach”
Welcome greetings and may God’s peace and grace be with you on this day. My name is Ken Johnson and I’m happy to be here to join The small army of clergy that has been filling the pulpit in my absence. I can’t begin to describe how good it makes me feel just knowing That in my absence, This thing we call church goes on. And so to Jonathan, to Julie, to Nancy to Kevin and Carol to Wendy to Linda, to Ann and any number of wonderful folks who have stepped up to share their love and understanding of God’s word I really can’t thank you enough.
I also wish to thank the friends and members of this congregation for their continued support of our church and their loving support for me as we’ve made our way through some pretty difficult times these last 5 months or so. Not to mention two years of living And trying to worship with a global pandemic going on. It has been humbling and inspiring and a true blessing to serve as your pastor. My hope and my prayer is that I can continue to do so at least for a little while longer.
But I do have a bit of a confession to make. You see I knew that this Sunday would be very important. I knew that people would show up wondering if this stroke business has scrambled my brain as much as my arm and leg. Well I am here to say that my brain is no more scrambled now that it was previously; which is saying a lot, I suppose. But my point is that I knew this service would be important. I mean let’s be honest: This is where we find out. This is where we find out if Pastor Ken can still cut the mustard. So yes, I realized all this And my confession to you is that it made me nervous. you might also keep in mind that it takes a lot to make me nervous, but there I was with the weight and the pain and the uncertainty of the last five months weighing on my shoulders; there I was, about to speak to a congregation I have gotten to know so well over the past ten years or so, and I’m nervous? To borrow an expression from my kids: “What’s up with that?” But I’m Pleased to say that I am relaxed and confident, thanks in large part to our gospel reading today.
It’s a story that starts out a little weird and then proceeds to get even weirder, but when it’s all said and done the story of the 10 lepers was what it took to cure me of my stage fright. The prevailing theme of Luke’s message here is gratitude or thankfulness and if there is anyone who has darn good reason to be thankful that would be me. And I am thankful. I really am. But I’d like to think that the gratitude I feel for Margie for you all for the doctors for the care staff – I’d like to think that this comes from a deep well Of gratitude and grace and not simply because I’ve been taught to say please and thank you. In a sense , Jesus is teaching us not so much the importance of giving thanks but of being gracious.
Now it’s a short read so let’s, once more, hear the story of the 10 lepers Lk 1713 It so happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14-16 Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests. “they went, and while still on their way, became clean.
Now I’d like To mention that in those days the only way a leper could be accepted back into society was if a priest signed a piece of paper saying that he was clean. So do you see the situation? it didn’t matter if you were healed or not; What was important here was a blessing by the priest. So let’s read on …..One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.
Now I need to interrupt again because really now, who is this guy? doesn’t he know how things work? You have to go to the priest and get checked out. otherwise none of this matters, right? As it turns out what matters is that we live with a grateful heart. What matters is that, like the Samaritan, we are so grateful we can’t be thankful enough. What matters is that we accept gratitude as a way of life.
When Steve Garness Holmes and his wife left first united Methodist in Missoula, Mt he was sorely missed. Fortunately for us Steve still shares his message through a column called unfolding light. I would encourage you look it up when you have a chance. Steve’s newest column speaks to the story of the 10 lepers, , But what got me the most is how this little column skipped over all the “Be a gracious and thankful person (whatever that means) and went right to the heart of defining the real- live can’t-help-yourself gratitude that Luke describes in today’s gospel. It seems to me that when Jesus talks with this particular Samaritan, We get a God’s eye view of what it means to be thankful. Mr holmes quotes from Luke 17 saying: – Were not 10 made clean? The other nine where are they?
Were none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?:
Wow……. were none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner” now at this point I can just see the remainder of those guys who had this terrible disease but were now cured and had ran off to the priest to get certification that they were cured. In their defense I would have to say they were probably over the moon with joy because they could now lead a normal life. They could now work a job get married. have children. They could now leave this ugly chapter of their life behind them.
yes they were healed, but somehow in all the excitement the miracle of their healing has lost its shine.” Were not 10 made clean?” Jesus said. “The other nine, where are they?” where are they indeed.
For the past few years the good folks here at Sheridan have put on a Christmas dinner. Now this is a a full holiday meal with all the trimmings. This event was inspired by the fact that we all missed having large family gatherings before the holidays. We thought there must be plenty other folks whose kids are grown just like ours and that they would enjoy a loud, big, and boisterous meal before Christmas Day.i’d have to say that this has been a great success. At least, that is, until COVID showed up
Now, some 2-3 years ago on the day of the Christmas dinner we noticed a van parked at the edge of the parking lot. No one knew who it belonged to and no one knew anything about it. But the windows were foggy and when we tapped on the glass, there was sure enough someone sleeping in that van on Christmas. His name was Ken, wouldn’t you know it, And was constrained to a wheelchair amongst other disabilities. He told us he had been parked in front of his daughter’s apartment, but didn’t feel safe there. He assured us that he would be out of our hair as soon as the paperwork went through for veterans housing down in Independence. But who knows. In the meantime, we brought him a meal, brewed up some coffee, and just had an all around great time. Before we parted ways, I left him a mess of phone numbers with a promise that he would keep us posted. Well, Ken was with us for a few days after that but when he left we lost all track of him. we lost track that is, until receiving a voice message on the church phone just a few months ago informing us that finally his paperwork that all got squared away and he was sleeping under a roof in a real bed at long last. I wish I could explain to you the excitement and Peace of Mind in his voice as he told members of this congregation thank you:-thank you for taking in a guy that looked kind of scary. Thank you for feeding and caring for me, but most of all what his voice said to me was thank you for believing in me and for treating me as a child of God. Kenny understands gratitude, and with that being said I would like to share with you some further understandings of gratitude that Steve garness holmes has published based upon Luke’s telling of the 10 lepers. These are words, I swear, but I’m going to have to pin on the fridge someday real soon.
“Gratitude begins were entitlement leaves off.”
“Gratitude is not a feeling, it’s a practice.”
“First be grateful then see what you receive.”
“The more you practice gratitude for the little things, the more you experience life as an unexpected gift.”
Keep this prayer always in your heart: “For what I am about to receive thank you, O Lord.”
No I don’t wish to get overly personal here, But I believe it’s true that most folks who have had to endure long hospital stays we’ll tell you that there is a dark place that our minds and our hearts can wander if we’re not careful. The idea of being thankful for anything seems phony and insincere. All I can think looking back is how grateful I truly am For the strength and the lasting peace that can be found in the love of Jesus Christ. It was August I believe, when we published an article I wrote describing the healing and calming effects of simply repeating” I will praise the Lord my God while I have breath.” I still catch myself speaking these words under my breath as a sort of breath prayer from time to time. But today, I’d like to switch gears just a bit And concentrate on the one practice of gratitude that Mr Holmes shared, Stated simply as “ First be grateful, then see what you receive.” I Can’t say why exactly, but I just love this! It’s one of those kinds of things that sounds just crazy enough that it might work.” First thing start off with a boatload of gratitude. after that there’s no telling what you’re going to have to be thankful for.” I have to tell you, for a guy who just a few months ago had shattered his femur and had no feeling on the left side of his body, this practice has served me well, and yes. I will continue to praise the Lord my God while I have breath. That ain’t never gonna change.
Back in the day when I used to hang around clergy people on purpose, I loved to eavesdrop on their stories. I mean, let’s face it old pastors have the best stories mostly because they’ve spent a lifetime collecting them. Anyways I loved listening to these stories and as the tall tales got taller, eventually you would hear someone say,” oh, that’ll preach,” and if all goes well someone has just landed upon a great idea for a sermon. I’d like to tell you that most sermons come from a deep well of theological vision and wisdom, but as Mr Gershwin once said. “That Ain’t Necessarily So.”
So here’s my idea: What if churches around the world started getting in the habit of thankfulness. What if the fruits of the spirit were the main topic of admin council meetings Instead of the budget. What if the body of Christ word to tell the world Over and over how lucky they are To have this over supply of joy in – Oh I don’t know – things like redemption, forgiveness, unconditional love, salvation. So what do you think? Would that preach? You can bet it would.
So let me close by planting this in your mind one more time, “for the things I am about to receive, oh Lord I give you thanks.”
Amen and Shalom