Danke, Grazie, Tak
October 13, 2019  Luke 17:11-19


In the 1993 film The Remains of the Day, Anthony Hopkins plays a butler to a super-rich family.

While researching this role, Mr. Hopkins interviewed a real-life butler.

This butler told Hopkins that his goal in life is complete and total obsequiousness – a skilled ability to blend into the woodwork of any room like a mere fixture, on a par with table lamps and coat racks.

In fact, Anthony Hopkins said one sentence he will never forget is when this man said that you can sum up an excellent butler this way: “The room seems emptier when he’s in it.”

The room seems emptier when he’s in it.

The goal of a butler is to do his work, fill your wine glasses, clear your plates without being noticed, much less thanked.

Now let me ask you: are you willing to settle for a life where God is so unnoticed that He fades into the background until He feels absent?

Staying mindful of God begins by being aware of God’s presence and grace, and then giving Him thanks as you go throughout your day.

Psalm 107:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

The psalm continues by reciting many of the ways God had intervened on behalf of the Hebrew people, and before it concludes,

Psalm 107:43 If you are really wise, you’ll think this over—
it’s time you appreciated God’s deep love

Vivienne invests hours upon hours to research before making a major purchase such as when she bought her SUV a few years ago.

One salesman down at Galpin Motors showed the patience of Job as she test drove several different makes and models – not just once, but twice and three times.

In the end, she purchased her Ford Edge, which she is very happy with.

Up to that time, I was not aware of the Ford Edge, but after she bought one, I began to see them everywhere.

In fact, a neighbor down the street has a white one just like ours but I had never noticed it before.

When we pause to notice what God has done, and then to give thanks for His goodness we wake up and become increasingly aware of His presence, and with that, our life changes.

In Luke 17, Jesus encounters ten lepers – the untouchables of the Ancient Near East – who plead for healing.

Luke 17:14 – 19 When he saw them, (Jesus) said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has saved you.”

Notice two things: First, the other nine did nothing wrong.

They were cleansed of leprosy, did just as Jesus asked by heading off to present themselves to priests and, presumably, enjoyed their healing.

Second, the one who turned back to thank Jesus was not just healed.

By acknowledging the source of his healing, he was blessed a second time.

He recognized that he’d received more than just a fix –  and connecting with its Source would change everything in his life.

That’s why Jesus concludes his exchange by saying that his faith has made him not only physically well, but also saved him.

The word we translate as “saved” (Greek: sozo) has broader meanings than eternal life.Because the word “saved” in Christian circles is usually limited to meaning eternal life in Heaven granted by the sacrifice of Jesus some translators are cautious in their word choice because they didn’t want to imply that the man’s expression of gratitude earned him eternal life.

The NIV says your faith has made you well, which understates what just happened.

Sozo is bigger than that.

For example, it can also mean how their physical healing restored other parts of their life.

In the case of leprosy, physical healing would allow the healed men to reconnect with families and society – it made them whole.

Maybe that is why the King James Version deals with the translation issue by saying made you whole.

But even that limits the full meaning of sozo.

The Message maybe does best by saying, “Your faith has healed and saved you.”

We can look at the opening words of Matthew to see more of its meaning.

Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save (sozo) His people from their sins.”

And consider this passage from Luke:

Luke 9:24 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save (sozo) it.”

For Jesus to say that returning to him in gratitude and worship saved the healed man is a powerful statement.

Amid the tumultuous theological and liturgical controversies of the Reformation, Martin Luther was once asked to describe the nature of true worship.

He thought it over and then answered, the tenth leper turning back.

This one man received his physical healing but he then recognized the Source of his healing, and so changed direction and turned back to Jesus, fell to his knees to worship Jesus and thereby received a second blessing … the blessing of connecting with the true Source of life, something that would change his entire life.

That, said Marin Luther, is the definition of worship.

Maybe you can remember one of those special dinners that was lovingly prepared, graciously served and savored as it was eaten.

Those are rare events when time just stops and you’re all absorbed by the moment and bound together by a sense of community and joy.

And then spontaneously someone raises a glass in a toast, and says, “This is great. This time, this meal, all of you. Thank you.”

It is in seeing and giving thanks that the original blessing is somehow multiplied.

Thanksgiving springs from perception — our ability to recognize blessing that comes from beyond our selves – and articulation — giving expression, no matter how inadequate it may seem at the time, of our gratitude for that blessing.

And every time these two are combined — sight and word – giving thanks actually grants a second blessing.

GK Chesterton wrote, “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

On the other hand, ingratitude makes people disappear while a simple word of thanks makes people visible again … it humanizes them.

In the movie Schindler’s List, the evil camp commandant, Amon Goeth, was known to deal with boredom by taking his rifle and randomly shooting passing Jews from his balcony.

They weren’t human to him; they were just rodents.

All except for Helen Hirsch, who becomes his maid and for whom he develops affection.

The startling moment when Oskar Schindler realizes this is when Helen quietly steals into the room and clears a plate of cookies.

But before she is able silently to exit the room, Goeth says, “Helen, thank you.”

He noticed her.

He humanized her.

And it showed because he thanked her.

He thanked her by name.

Ignoring God turns Him invisible to us … and can lead to self-centeredness, sin, even great evil.

There are reasons for fear, frustration, grief and anger.

And at times we need to accept and experience them … they’re real and trying to deny or repress them can actually empower them in insidious ways.

But we choose how long we will play host to them and how we will give expression to them.

We also choose how we will respond to others’ expression of their feelings.

For example, when confronted by someone who is angry, do we react with anger as a form of self-protection or do we choose empathy, trying to understand the emotions of the other?

Can we eventually find gratitude for their honesty and for the opportunity to create a deeper relationship?

These are choices.

The same is true for the blessings that come our way.

Do we just continue on our way, or do we pause and give thanks to the Source and Savior of our life?

Over time, our choice of responses become our habit of life.

Brother David said, “In life we see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratitude that makes us happy.”