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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Luke 17:11-19 “Ten Percent”
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church
October 10, 2004

One in ten. Ten Percent. That’s how many of the people with leprosy Jesus healed who turned around and came back to praise God and to say thank you. And it makes me wonder. Is the percentage still accurate? How many people do you know who live lives of gratitude and praise? Half? Four out of ten? Three out of ten? Two? Is the world still such an ungrateful, un-praising place that only one in ten people recognize the goodness of God for what it is? And if so, which part of the ratio do you fall into? Are you the one? Or are you one of the other nine, who go on about their way, clueless of the grace that heals you, and makes you whole?

A faithful life is a life of gratitude. A life of gratitude is a life of open eyes. If you want to grow in your faith, if you want God’s Holy Spirit to flourish within you, be the one – the one who sees God and says, “Thank you.”
I would wager that ninety percent of the time, we’re just as ungrateful as the devout lepers who never said thank you to Jesus. It’s not personal. It’s not that we don’t love God. It’s not that we’re mean or cruel or unkind people. It’s just that ninety percent of the time, we’re on to something else before we stop. We never open our eyes and look around at the grace that sustains us every single day.

Today’s Top Ten List from the home office in South Knoxville, Tennessee: The Top Ten Reasons We Don’t Say “Thank You” to God.
Number 10: “Oops! I did it again!” The response of countless husbands and Britney Spears (who can’t seem to remember if she has a husband).
Number 9: I wrote a note. But my dog ate it and/or my little sister colored on it. – oldies but goodies no matter what our age.
Number 8: Because our doctor says we have Gratitude Deficit Disorder.
Number 7: I left a voice mail, Lord; didn’t you check your messages?
Number 6: Because we’re sinful. Sorry.
Number 5: Because there’s no time for anything else on the schedule.
Number 4: Because we figure it’s just dumb luck when something good happens.
Number 3: Because we’re spoiled.
Number 2: Because God will still be there tomorrow, so what’s the rush?
And the Number 1 Reason we don’t say Thank You to God is… you fill in the blank.

And so it goes. For every good thing that happens to us, there must be at least nine reasons why we don’t see it as the goodness of a loving and merciful God. It’s not that we don’t want to be grateful. It’s not that we’re bad. But you know the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” With God being out of sight so much of the time, how could saying “thank you” to God be at the top of our minds? The problem is not so much the desire, but the seeing.

Seeing plays an important role in today’s scripture. Jesus sees the lepers. Jesus tells the lepers to show themselves to the priests. The one leper sees that he has been healed, and turns around. Throughout the Gospel According to Luke, seeing is believing. Believing is recognizing the Lord, recognizing God’s goodness for what it is.

Professional horse racers put blinders on the horses, to keep them from seeing the competition, to make them run faster. How many of us go through life with blinders on? Shutting out the competition we know is right on our tail? Running faster because we don’t have to look around? How many of us narrow our perspective so that we see what we want to see, or need to see, and no more? Even Jesus was on his way from one place to another, and had to have his attention grabbed by the lepers calling out in one voice, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us!” If even Jesus’ attention needs to be grabbed once in a while, there’s hope for the rest of us, don’t you think?

Faith is like a precious jewel with many facets, many sides. Most of us don’t see more than a couple. Many people think of faith as obedience, obedience to rules and commandments. Driving past our local Apostolic Church of God of Prophesy last week, their sign said, “Faith is the ability not to panic.” Faith is calm. Faith is courage. And yes, those are sides of it. But at its core, faith is simple awareness. Simply being aware that the Great I Am is. And awareness leads to gratitude. For so many of us, the time for prayer, the time for study, the time for saying thank you to God – these are the first things on our lists, but the last things to get done. We shove them down because there are so many other immediate concerns. We don’t want to; it just happens. We ask how we’re supposed to make more time for God in our lives, but maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe instead of making time for God, we need to concentrate on the time God has made for us. All our time, every day, is a gift from God. At times of birth and times of death, we gather together and say in one voice that life itself is a miracle. Baptisms and funerals always seem to be the holy times we don’t forget. But what about all the time in between? What about today, and tomorrow, and the day after that? Aren’t those days miraculous in and of themselves?

A couple of years ago, someone emailed me a forward of a forward. As internet theology goes, it’s not bad. It’s about seeing the blessings in each day.
It goes like this:

If you've ever wondered why my reply is always "I'm Blessed" when someone asks how I am, here is why:

If you own just one Bible, you are abundantly blessed, 1/3 of the world does not have access to even one.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest or torture of death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God's healing touch.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.

Maybe you’re a person for whom “quiet time” is a contradiction in terms. If you’re like most, you spend incalculably more time washing dishes, creating reports, attending meetings, or sitting in classrooms than communing with God. Ninety percent (or more) of your life is time you don’t choose to spend with God. And yet, God is choosing to spend one hundred percent of your time with you, even as you do all those things. Be thankful. Be blessed. Be aware.

The leper who saw that he was cured and turned around and changed his path, was, the Bible points out, a foreigner. Maybe seeing the spirit of God is something foreign to you. Devote yourself to doing something foreign, something as strangely out of place as seeing God in the time of your days. Do it even ten percent of the time. You will, as did the leper, amaze Christ. And Christ, in turn, will amaze you.