Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bring the Full Tithe and Give Thanks to God

How many of you remember this commercial, “How do you spell relief? R O L A I D S!” Since 1954 Rolaids has been promised as the savior for everyone who suffers from heartburn. The commercials for ROLAIDS always show someone suffering so much that simple tasks seem impossible, but even while they are still chewing the relief comes and life is embraced once again. American drug companies have been promising us relief from aches and pains for decades. And still our heart burns.

The hearts of ten lepers in this morning’s Gospel burned for healing from Christ. Leprosy was the most painful disease of the Old Testament because not only did the victims have physical pain, they suffered from something much greater; they were outcasts from society. They were forced to live in colonies outside the city so the rest of society could enjoy their comforts of life without being bothered by the gross lepers. They were alone and without hope.

When Christ entered the village, they came up to him without hesitation and cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17.13) They belied in the power of Christ to heal them from their horrible disease, but Christ did not heal them immediately. Jesus sent the ten lepers to the temple priests to be healed. Their faith in Jesus was so great that as soon as they turned around they were healed. The Gospel says, “And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.” (Luke 17.14) But that is not what I wish to talk about this morning. I want to talk about what came next…

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.” (Luke 17.15-16) One of the ten, a foreigner at that, as soon as he realized he had been healed, returned immediately to Jesus to glorify God and give Him thanks. Only one man expressed his thanks to God immediately when he was healed while the other nine were never heard from again. “So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who turned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’” (Luke 17.17-18)

Who are we my brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we the single returning soul that gives glory to God or are we the nine who continue to go about business not even bothering to thank Jesus for our healing or other blessings? In fact, we are the nine ever time we put someone or something ahead of God rather than coming to Him and giving Him glory and thanks. The one who returned to Jesus turned from his regular path and fell at the feet of Jesus; and we should do no less if we have been blessed with good health or a job or a comfortable home. Has anyone of us not been blessed recently? Ask yourself, “How have I given thanks to God?”

When we come to Church, we are like the one single man in this morning’s Gospel who returned to Jesus. When we come to Church we are in the actual presence of God. On this Altar and in the Chalice is the actual Body and Blood of God. We should come like the man in this morning’s Gospel and throw ourselves down at the foot of the Altar and thank God. But God loves us so much, who like the father of the prodigal son, He runs and embraces us as soon as we appear in the doorway of the Narthex. God says to us, “Arise, your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17.19)

Let us arise this morning my dear brothers and sisters in Christ and give thanks to God for the blessings he has given us. Did we come last week or any time in the past and need God’s help? Let us today thank Him, like the man in this morning’s Gospel and let US give glory to God. Did any of us take God up his challenge last week? Did we “put Him to the test and give our tithe to the Church?” (see Malachi 3.10) And did we not have enough or even too much this week? Glory to God!

We need to become a community that knows how to thank God. We know how to thank our family and our friends and even the complete stranger that serves us our dinner at a restaurant. We know how to ask God to help us but that is only the first part. Like in this morning’s Gospel Christ will ask, “Where are the rest?” Who will we be…..the one who returned to give thanks to God or the nine who went about their own business?

Today is Stewardship Commitment Sunday and the Church is giving us an opportunity to thank God for the blessings He has given us. We have the opportunity to express our thanks AND our Faith that God will pour blessings upon our heads when we bring our Tithe to the Church. We thank waiters and waitresses with more than 10% but what about God? Last week I spent several minutes discussing, almost like a bible study, how God expects us to give to the Church, not because the Church needs money, but because we have a need to give money so our hearts will be with God and His Kingdom and mission on Earth.

Listen again to the words of the Prophet Malachi, “Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” (Malachi 3.10) God has a mission for us and the Church so when we bring our tithe to the Church, the Church becomes a safe place for those who need God’s help. The Church will then accept our gifts and give thanks to God by using the offerings to do the work of God, “acts of justice and mercy.” (Matthew 23.23)

Let us take a moment this morning and thank God and give Him glory my dear brothers and sisters. Life is full of aches and pains. For those we have ROLAIDS. But life’s real blessings, give thanks to God. Come to the Church, glorify God with your offerings as thanks and He will say to you, “Arise, your faith has made you well.”