Gratitude to God

If we think that God is somehow obligated to bless us, or to give us gifts, then we will likely not be grateful to Him. In truth we are not worthy of anything good from God. We do not deserve any blessings from him. If we are willing to accept this truth, then maybe we will be more thankful when God indeed chooses to bless us. How do we thank God? We come to the Church and we give Him gifts of thanks through our stewardship, olive oil for the lamps, prosforo for Holy Communion. Rather than demand that God does what we want, we can be grateful to God even when we do not deserve those blessings.

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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.

My brothers and sisters, this morning in the gospel we hear of another great miracle of our Lord. We see 10 lepers, strangers in society. Of course, we have to remember that in those days the lepers had to live out all by themselves away from the city. They weren't allowed to live with the people. They lived way out as strangers, as foreigners, as outcasts. As Christ was approaching the village, these 10 lepers come up to Christ, and they're yelling at him from a distance to have mercy on them. Our Lord tells them, he says, "Go show yourselves to the priests."

Now, this is an important thing for us to remember because this is exactly one of the commandments of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament when someone had been healed by God, one of the requirements after they had been healed by God was to go show themselves to the priests that they had been healed and to make a proper offering to God. If you look back in the Old Testament in the book of Leviticus, you see hundreds of examples of exactly what they were supposed to offer God to give him thanks.

Keeping in mind that this was an expression of gratitude, an expression of thanksgiving to God. It wasn't to buy God's favor. They were not expected to go to the temple and give, to give a pigeon so that they could be healed. They were supposed to go to the temple having already been healed by God and offer him a gift to say thank you. This is among the most ancient practices of humankind. We know again from the Old Testament when Noah after the flood put his feet back on dry land, the very first thing that Noah did to express his gratitude, his thankfulness to God, was he says, "I'm going to build an altar." We could say he built a church. He built an altar and made an offering to God to say thank you that God had protected him and his family and that he had brought them safely to dry land after this great flood.

We know Peter, James, and John, in order to give thanks to God when they saw Christ transfigured on Mount Tabor, they said, "It was good for us to be here, and so now we're going to build an altar. One for you and one for Moses and Elias." Again, an expression of gratitude coming from the people to build churches. Because these altars, my brothers and sisters, were used and are used to give thanks to God to offer him a gift, an expression of thanks.

In this morning's gospel 10 were healed, but only one returned to Jesus Christ to say thank you. He was a foreigner. So I began thinking, why is it that so many times we don't give thanks to God for the blessings that he has given us? It occurred to me that maybe it's because too many times we expect God to do something for us. We think that God somehow is obligated to heal us or somehow obligated to bless us or to give us some great gift in life. And if God is obligated, if God is forced to do something for us, what need is there to say thank you? If God is merely being obedient to his own commandments, then why should we bother saying thank you? I suspect, although it doesn't say this in the Scriptures, it's just my suspicion that the nine Jews, because they were accustomed to the tradition of the Old Testament, they were on their way to the priest to follow the rules, but the Samaritan, out of pure joy and pure thanksgiving, returned back to God to say thank you.

So the lesson for us, my brothers and sisters, I know you're not going to want to hear this, but we don't deserve anything good from God. We are sinners and if God treated us like the sinners we were, we don't deserve anything good from God. If we accepted that reality, maybe, just maybe we would be a little bit more thankful when God does beautiful things for us. Maybe, just maybe when we received health, when we received the blessings that we ask from God, knowing that he didn't have to do it for us, knowing that it was a genuine gift of love that God gave us, maybe, just maybe we would be a little bit more thankful to God. How do we give thanks? As those in the Old Testament, we come to the church and we offer God our gifts.

Now in the Old Testament, as I said, there were thousands of examples, a turtle dove for this, a lamb for this, an ox for this, et cetera, et cetera, and all of those things have gone away for the most part. But we still have an opportunity to thank God with our gifts. We can thank him and we should thank him with our stewardship. When we come to the church, the church has work to do. The church has ministries to accomplish. We can thank God for the gifts when we give him our stewardship. We can come and we can bring a prosforo for the divine liturgy, a prosforo that is going to be used for Holy Communion. If there is, as we say, anything left over, the prosforo doesn't go wasted. It goes and it's given to the poor.

We can give thanks to God by bringing Lathi, by bringing olive oil, for the oil lamps as an offering to God, as a gift to God, not because God needs lathi. God doesn't need anything from us, but we have an opportunity to express our gratitude and our appreciation for every little thing that God does for us. If we can begin remembering that we don't deserve the good things, when we receive them we will be just that much more grateful.

The ultimate expression of thanks that we give to God is to come for the divine liturgy as you are today. But don't just come and sit and be entertained. Don't come and just sit in the church and watch some performance in front of you. Open the books in your pews. Follow along with the prayers. Make the prayers your own. Sing with the choir and the chanter. The prayers of the divine liturgy are words of thanks that we give to God. I'm going to remind you of just two. The first one is on page 65 in your book. You can follow along if you want.

As soon as we are finished with Holy Communion, the chanter sings this beautiful hymn. Let our mouths be filled with your praise, oh Lord, that we may sing of your glory because you have made us worthy to partake of your Holy mysteries. It is God that makes us deserving of his gifts. We do not deserve Holy Communion. We are not worthy of Holy Communion, but God makes us worthy. So this beautiful prayer of thanks to God, keep us in your sanctification that all day long we may meditate upon your righteousness, that we may never forget just how God is good to us and loves us.

Then turn the page. The next beautiful prayer, we give thanks to you, Master, who loves mankind, benefactor of our souls that even on this very day you have made us worthy of your heavenly and immortal mysteries. Now listen to this very last part. Make straight our path. Fortify us in your fear. Guard our life. Make secure our steps through the prayers and supplications of the glorious Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and of all your saints. When we come to the divine liturgy, my brothers and sisters, and prepare as Orthodox Christians to receive Holy Communion, as we call it in Greek, Θεία Ευχαριστία, the divine giving of thanks, this is what God is calling us to and inviting us to. To open our hearts and to become a grateful people instead of always demanding that God does something for us and then getting angry when he doesn't give us what we want. Instead thankful that he gives us blessings even when we do not deserve them. Glory to God for all things.

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