Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

“A life of gratitude”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 9 October 2016, the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Psalm 111; Luke 17:11-16

The United Nations’ Security Council just announced they had agreed to nominate António Guterres to be the next General Secretary to replace Ban Ki-moon. Antonio Guterres described what he felt at that moment of nomination was one of gratitude and humility.

This Sunday I would like to share a message about gratitude, with the insights taken from the lectionary readings today - Psalm 111 and Luke 17:11-16.

What is gratitude and what is a life of gratitude – why and how?

The straight forward understanding of gratitude is being thankful for what we have and what we are and should never be taken for granted.

How do we understand ‘gratitude’ from the bible?

Psalm 111 is a poem of praise

The psalmist praised the Lord for God’s wonderful work – the psalmist gave thanks to the Lord for the salvation of the Israelites from bondage. The praise expressed was also for God’s covenant and his faithfulness to his people. God provided food to those who feared him. This beautiful poem retells not only the wonderful work of God to the Israelites. It communicates God’s will, love and care to all people and to the whole creation. God is merciful, faithful and righteous.

The psalm reaffirms to us once again the redeeming power of the Lord. The works of God not only bring benefit and salvation to Israel. The Lord who is the God of history has been participating in the world that he created. The Psalm reminds us that God is love, life and liberty. God is forever with his people and the creation. This is the very foundation of our praise to God and our gratitude to God in all times and in all places. 

A life of gratitude requires a decision of believers 
In the Psalm of praise 111:2- “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” (Psalm 111:2)

Psalm 111:10 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever. ”

Being grateful to God is more than saying thank you. A life of gratitude in praise and thanksgiving requires a decision of the believers to know God, turn to the Lord and walk with him in our life. The message of praise and thanksgiving to Israel in Psalm echoes in the gospel story of the Samaritan leper and his encounter with Jesus.

Let me now turn to speak about the gospel story of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed and only one Samaritan returned to him praising God and thanking him for his healing.

A little bit of background for you about lepers and Samaritans: lepers are culturally isolated people because they suffer from a kind of contagious disease, most commentary referred to it as a skin disease (see 5:12-16), Samaritans were disliked by Jews for their religious defection and race impurity, for they are half-breeds (see 9:51-56), they not 100 % Jews.
There were 10 lepers and they went as a group to ask for Jesus’ healing. Theysought mercy from Jesus collectively. They said to Jesus, “Master, have pity on us”.
It is interesting to see that only one leper who is a Samaritan returned and praised with loud praise. It shows his excitement and great joy. He must be very thankful for being cured by Jesus.
Jesus raised a question ‘It is only the foreigner who returned. Where are the rest of the lepers who have been healed? Why don’t they come too?’
This leper who was culturally isolated because of his disease and religiously rejected because of his race, was courageous to walk by himself. He took a different path from the rest of the lepers.

According to Jewish religious laws and traditions, lepers need to go to the priests and show them they were healed according to the Law. This Samaritan leper did not go to get this affirmation and endorsement from the religious authority. Symbolically it tells us this person is no longer enslaved by the Law. He is free!

The Samaritan leper led a different life after being healed. He was filled by the spirit of gratitude to praise God. The leper was no longer enslaved by his illness and stigmatization. He broke his isolation from the community by coming to the public praising the Lord with a loud voice. He broke his isolation from individuals by coming to Jesus, prostrating himself at Jesus’ feet.  

The gratitude of the Samaritan leper revealed his faith to God’s work. He exclaimed to his restoration of life and expressed his appreciation towards God and life through what Jesus did.

From the Samaritan leper, we realize how gratitude brings to people freedom. A life of gratitude is a manifestation of a person’s faith.

The remarkable statement by Jesus, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.” “Your faith has made you well” is a powerful proclamation. It tells us that a life of gratitude to seek God, to praise God, to turn to Christ is an important aspect of faith.

The leper who returned to Christ gives us a pointer - a life of gratitude requires believers to walk in a new path of life, let the old self pass away, be courageous to break the chains that have kept us like prisoners.

The author of Luke, in sharing the story of the Samaritan leper, intended to call the believers for a decision – to live a life of gratitude and faith, that is to seek God, to praise God, to turn to Christ. By doing it, by practicing the faith of gratitude, we are saved.

A life of gratitude brings joy – personal and communal

Psalm 111:1 – Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

The declaration of ‘I’ invites all members of the community to join the psalmist in giving praise; it is a community hymn.

Thanksgiving and a life of gratitude are relevant both to a person and to a community.

When we praise God and give thanks for his almighty and love, we know that a life of gratitude is to share God’s goodness as we are all God’s children. A life of gratitude leads us to love each other. We love because God first love us.

The Psalm of Praise reminds us and challenges the church community to nurture the life of gratitude and practice it amongst us. Every Sunday we gather together to give honour and praises to God in our worship. Every time we worship, we humble ourselves, to worship God in spirit and in true. A life of gratitude requires of us to love and give thanks to each other in our church fellowship, in our family, in our work and study settings. Let us not take things for granted.  Let us not take others’ support for granted. On the contrary, we learn to appreciate one another and give thanks to people who have been with us, supporting us in good times and bad times. The more gratitude we have inside us and shown in our life, the happier we are and more joy generated within the community we are living in.

To live a life of gratitude leads me to remember Rev Kwok, our former Senior Minister of Kowloon Union Church. He was my supervisor and mentor who I learnt a lot from him. I have deep respect to him and his  faith in God. He was diagnosed with cancer last May. In midst of his illness, he keeps a positive manner in life and does whatever he can to treat his illness and keep his body strong. He continues to swim on a regular basis. Even though he suffers from chronical illness and easier gets tired, he continues to serve within his capacity. He continues to join the Monday Prayer Gathering. This is a prayer gathering he initiated to gather Christians to pray for Hong Kong and her people when the Umbrella Movement was coming to end in December 2014. He also continues to mentor young pastors of local churches and writing letters to encourage his family, friends and sisters and brothers in Christ. All these pastoral letters were compiled into a book namely ‘Pastoral Letter in Sickness’. Yesterday this new book was launched in our  fellowship hall.. In good health and illness Rev Kwok lives well and serves the Lord with joy, hope and peace. Yesterday he shared in the book launch a life of gratitude make a person happy and joyful. He learns and does his best to give thanks in all circumstances.  He has set a very good example for us to learn.

Gratitude is not just an act of giving thanks to God by words or by action such as giving offering of thanksgiving. Gratitude is a matter of faith – knowing and believing that God is the source of life and love, God will be with us and take care of us no matter what.

Sisters and brothers,
Praise the Lord!
Let our life be praise.
Let our life be gratitude.
Let our life be love to honor God forever and ever.


# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, October 09, 2016

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