Summary: The extent of our gratitude is proportionate to our understanding of God’s goodness.
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Title: Where Are the Other Two-Hundred?
Text: Luke 17:11-19
Thesis: The extent of our gratitude is proportionate to our understanding of
Are people grateful by nature? Does a person have to learn to be grateful?
Are most people appreciative of the good God makes possible in their lives and do they make an effort to express their gratitude to God and others?
Deborah Norville writes in her new book, Thank You Power, “In dozens of randomized, controlled experiments, people who focused on the things they were grateful for were happier, healthier, and more successful.” (Thank You Power, Deborah Norville, Thomas Nelson, 2007)
Norville, who professes to have been a Christian since she was fifteen, cites gratitude as an attitude that actually makes you smarter. She writes, “Practicing gratitude activates the dopamine receptors in the cerebral frontal cortex – the place in the brain where reasoning and logic take place. And activating that actually makes you smarter.” (http://msnbc.com/id/2111898/site/newsweek /page/o/)
I don’t know if thankful people are smarter than ungrateful people, but I do know they are nicer to be around. However, we acknowledge that life is sometimes hard and gratitude does not always come easy.
I. Some people live in the borderlands… I wonder if most people feel marginalized at one time or another?
As Jesus continued toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance… Luke 17:11-12
In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, we are told why they stood at a distance. Those who suffer from any contagious skin disease must tear their clothing and allow their hair to hang loose. They as they go from place to place, they must cover their mouth and call out, “Unclean! Unclean” As long as the disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean and must live in isolation outside the camp. Leviticus 13:45-46
Leprosy is an ancient disease we know as Hansen’s disease. Hansen’s disease is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacterium, mycobacterium leprae. The skin may become blotched or develop lesions. The bacterium attacks peripheral nerves resulting in loss of sensation, which results in unfelt injuries that, left untreated, results in the deterioration of tissue.
There were two leper colonies in the upper forty-eight states. One was on an island in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and the other in Carville, Louisiana. Carville is an unincorporated community on the Mississippi River, about sixteen miles south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Carville is the hometown of political personality James Carville and the village was actually named after his grandfather. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carville,_Louisiana)
Under the pretense of using the land as an ostrich farm, Allen Jumel, who was a member of the House of Representatives of the state of Louisiana, arranged for what would be the purchase of a rundown parcel known as Indian Camp Plantation which then served as a leprosarium. That was 1894. In 1916, the United States Congress acted to create a National Leprosarium and The Louisiana Leper Home was purchased from the state of Louisiana in 1921. It is recorded that since no other transportation could be arranged for the “unfortunates”, the first lepers to move to the leprosarium were towed to the leprosarium on a coal-barge by a tugboat. (Excerpted from A Profile of the United States Public Health Service 1798-1984, Bess Furman, Washing, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office)
No one wanted to be near them in Jesus’ day and no one wanted to share a boat with them in 1894. I suspect that the stigma attached to the lepers of Jesus’ day was akin to that attached to those who were first diagnosed with HIV in our country.
But, you don’t have to have HIV or leprosy to feel isolated. Your borderlands probably is not a leper colony. However, you may feel or have felt the isolation, marginalization, or the stigma of poverty, unemployment, receiving food stamps or having to sign up for reduced or free lunches for your children. Perhaps your borderland was one of discrimination for your race or ethnicity. Maybe your borderland was a matter of gender. People in the borderlands know what moral failure feels like. If you’ve been through a divorce, you know about the borderlands. Many people with disabilities live in the borderlands. Maybe you’re short or tall or skinny or fat. Maybe you are too young or too old. Some folks feel the stigmas of being odd or quirky. When you are in the borderlands, you know it. You feel isolated, marginalized, and stigmatized and people give you a wide berth.
Borderlands exist and people live there. There is no crime in being there. And, there is no crime in wanting to get out of the borderlands. Sometimes people get religion, so to speak, when they are in the borderlands.