TITLE: Become a Cloud Lifter SCRIPTURE: Luke 17:11-19
Did anyone ever fail to say thanks to you. It happened to Jesus, as recounted in our Gospel lesson today. Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one returned to say thanks.
The ten lepers begged him to heal them, and he did. He told them to show themselves to a priest, because a cleansed leper could not resume a normal life until a priest pronounced him clean.
So the ten went away to show themselves to the priest, but one turned back to say thanks. I like the way that Luke describes that for us. He says:
"Then one of them,
when he saw that he was healed, turned back,
praising God with a loud voice.
He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him."
And then Luke adds this note: "And he was a Samaritan." Jews despised Samaritans for not being religious enough -- pure enough -- good enough -- Godly enough. But this not-so-good man was the one who praised God --who praised God with a loud voice -- who prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.
I am sure that Jesus enjoyed that moment. We all enjoy being thanked, and I believe that Jesus enjoyed being thanked. Our text doesn't focus on that. It focuses on the fact that the other nine did not come back. But this man returned to give thanks -- and I believe that Jesus enjoyed that.
It was a nice moment. Luke says that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was where Jesus was going to die. Jesus wasn't looking forward to his cross, but he knew it was coming. It was an uncomfortable time for him, moving toward Jerusalem -- toward his cross. But this healed leper did something nice for Jesus. He came back to say thanks. He came back praising God -- praising God with a loud voice -- prostrating himself at Jesus feet and thanking him. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, but this Samaritan gave him a moment of joy along the way.
An Army chaplain told this story. At one of the last places that I served, a very good chaplain had been passed over for promotion. It didn't look good for him. When it came time for promotions to be announced, I had to tell him that he didn't make it. I had to do that two years running. I hated it. There was a long sidewalk in front of his office, and I hated walking down that long sidewalk. I hated breaking the news to him.
But I went to bat for him. I got our commander to help. It took us two years, but we got that chaplain promoted. I was surprised, because I didn't think that we could do it -- but we did do it. I was surprised and very happy.
But I don't recall that chaplain saying thanks. It bothered me a little, because I had tried hard to help him -- and it WORKED!!! If it hadn't worked, I wouldn't have expected any thanks -- but it WORKED!!! And then nothing -- no thanks! At least, that's the way I remember it. Maybe I forgot.
But several years later, I ran across that man at a meeting. We had lunch together, and he told me how much he appreciated what I had done for him. It was a wonderful moment -- a healing moment. It shouldn't have made that much difference, but it did! I didn't help him so that he would say thanks -- but I was glad when he did. It meant a lot to me.
That's one reason that I believe that the leper who returned to say thanks did something really nice for Jesus. That's one reason I believe that Jesus, who was on his way to his cross, was able to put Jerusalem out of his mind for a few minutes. The healing was Jesus' gift to that man. The thanks was that man's gift to Jesus.
Did you ever have anything like that happen to you? So few people take time to say thanks. What about teachers! Good teachers really put themselves out to help their students. Good teachers really make a difference in kid's lives. I wonder how many kids stop to say thanks. Not many, I think.
I read a story about W.L. Stidger -- William Stidger -- Bill Stidger. He was one of the first radio preachers. By the mid-1930s, Stidger had a radio audience of half a million listeners. Boston University's School of Theology invited him to teach a course on using radio for ministry. Stidger became a national figure.
Stidger often thanked people, so he sat down one day to write a note to one of his former teachers. He wasn't sure where she lived, but he addressed his note the best that he could and dropped it in the mailbox. That note was forwarded from place to place, and it finally reached Stidger's teacher. When she received it, she sat down and wrote this response. She said:
"My Dear Willie:
I am an old lady in my eighties.
I am ill and I cannot leave my room.
Your letter came like a ray of bright sun,
illuminating my dark day and my even darker life.
You will be interested to know that, after fifty years of teaching,
yours was the first letter of thanks
I ever received from a former student.
You lifted the clouds for me."
"You lifted the clouds for me." Have you lifted the clouds for anyone? Are you a cloud lifter?
The leper who returned to say thanks was a cloud lifter for Jesus. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. The cloud of death hung in the air. But one man returned to say thanks, and he gave Jesus a moment of joy. That thankful leper was a cloud lifter.
The chaplain we heard about was a cloud lifter. It took him awhile to say thanks, but he lifted a cloud when he did.
Do you have it in you to be a cloud lifter? Some people find it difficult to be a cloud lifter. Some men, in particular, are afraid that they will ruin their sons if they say anything nice or shoe any kind of affection. The opposite is true, of course. Too much criticism kills the soul. Our children need our approval. That doesn't mean that we approve of everything that they do, but it does mean that we show approval when we can. What we say to our children now will reverberate in their lives and their children's lives fifty years from now.
-- If you want a bad child, yell "Can't you ever do anything right!" If you want a good child, say, "Here, let me help you."
-- If you want bad children, find something they are doing wrong, and yell at them. If you want good children, find something that they are doing right and compliment them.
-- If you want a bad child, say, "That's just like you!" when they do something wrong. If you want a good child, say, "That's just like you!" when they do something right.
Compliment your children! Thank them! Bathe them in your love. It won't cost you anything, but it help them. If you want good children, give them your blessing. Be a cloud lifter!
Could you become a cloud lifter? Is there someone you could help by saying thanks? Is there someone you could help by a word of praise? Is there someone out there who needs your blessing? You bet there is!
-- Could you bless your mother or father this week by saying thanks?
-- Is there someone in your past -- someone who helped you -- someone you could bless by saying thanks.
-- Is there someone in this congregation who deserves your word of thanks. We have all sorts of people who give time and money and effort to minister to the people of this congregation -- to provide music -- to take care of the building -- to serve on committees. Could you bless someone here today by saying thanks?
-- What about your husband or your wife? Have you said thanks lately? Have you said, "You look nice" lately? Have you said, "I love you" lately?
-- What about God? Have you thanked God lately for the food you eat -- for your health -- for your family -- for your job? Have you thanked God for the air you breathe?
That seems like a small thing, doesn't it -- the air that you breathe -- too small and too common to be a subject for thanksgiving! But air doesn't seem small to lots of people in this community. I see people hauling bottles of oxygen into their homes because a loved one has emphysema or some other breathing disorder. The air that they breathe doesn't seem like a small thing to them -- it seems like the most important thing in the world! They would give everything they have to be able to breathe normally. What about you? Have you ever thanked God for the air that you breathe?
Jesus taught us to pray by addressing God as Father. Fathers love to hear their children say thanks. It would give God pleasure to hear you say thanks. Have you said thanks lately?
-- And then what about you? What about yourself? If you started counting your blessings every day instead of brooding on your troubles, would it make a difference in your life? You bet it would! If you would only learn to count your blessings, that would lift the clouds and bring a ray of sunshine into your life! It would transform your life!
You can become a cloud lifter for other people, and you can become a cloud lifter for yourself. I'll go one more step. If you will become a cloud lifter for other people, you will become a cloud lifter for yourself as well. If you will learn to say thanks -- and "Good job!" -- and "You look nice!" -- and "I love you!" -- you will give many blessings but you will receive even more.
Jesus healed ten lepers. One returned to say thanks. Jesus responded by saying:
"Get up and go on your way;
your faith has made you well."
The New Testament was written originally in Greek. The word that is translated "made you well" is sozo. Sozo can mean "made you well," but in the New Testament it usually means "saved you." And so some people would say that Jesus told this leper:
"Get up and go on your way;
your faith has SAVED you."
In fact, Fred Craddock, who wrote a commentary on this Gospel, says that the story of the ten lepers is "a story of ten being healed and one being saved" (Craddock, 203). One leper returned to give thanks, and Jesus said, "Your faith has SAVED you!"
If you become a cloud lifter, you will lift the clouds for lots of people. If you become a cloud lifter, the clouds will lift for you as well. The blessings that you give to others will bless you too.
Give it a try! Learn to give thanks -- to say "Good job!" --"You look nice!" --"I love you!" -- and you will be amazed at other people's lives -- and at your life as well.