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
Psalm 111; Luke 17:11-16
Nations’ Security Council just announced they had agreed to nominate António Guterres to be the
Secretary to replace Ban Ki-moon. Antonio Guterres described
what he felt at that moment of nomination was one of gratitude and humility.
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?
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.
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”.
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!
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
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
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
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
declaration of ‘I’ invites all members of the community to join the psalmist in
giving praise; it is a community hymn.
and a life of gratitude are relevant both to a person and to a community.
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.
Let our life be gratitude.
Let our life be love to honor God forever and ever.