The Gratitude Attitude

By Sharron R. Blezard, October 6, 2016

Lectionary Reflection for the Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

October 9, 2016

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 he was a Samaritan.  Luke 17:15-16

Have you ever noticed how some folks just live their lives from a place of abundance and gratitude? You know the kind of person I’m talking about: the one who sees a glass not just as half full but rather overflowing, the one who would give you the coat off her back, the one who can always stretch a meal to accommodate last minute friends and guests, and the one who finds ways to compliment and look for the good in everybody.

People who live with the gratitude attitude are generally happier and more fulfilled in life. Check out The Psychology of Gratitude, edited by Robert A Emmons and Michael McCullough (Oxford University Press, 2004). Yes, there’s science to prove it! According to Emmons, developing a conscious practice of gratitude and living gratefully can strengthen Cafe Gratitude Salad Bowlthe immune system, improve sleep, and lower blood pressure. Gratitude is also connected to higher levels of positive emotions, more joy and pleasure, and increased optimism and happiness. Finally, living gratefully makes us more helpful, generous, compassionate, forgiving, outgoing, and reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation.

If living a grateful life leads to so many positive results, why isn’t everyone hopping on the gratitude train? The story from this week’s gospel lesson can shed some light on that. Ten lepers approach Jesus to seek healing. He simply says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” They follow his directions, and as they go on their way they are made clean. Only one of them, we’re told, realizing he is healed immediately returns and falls at Jesus’ feet offering praise and thanks. We also learn that he is a Samaritan — a cultural outsider, and therefore the most unlikely one to practice gratitude. Jesus observes the situation and then sends him on his way, saying “your faith has made you well.” The word “well” might be better rendered “whole.” Note that Jesus doesn’t send him on to the priests for validation. It seems to be more than a physical cure, but rather a state of general well-being that didn’t need official approval. After all, when you’re put right by God’s-own-self-in-the-flesh, why would you need to pass anyone else’s religious sniff test?

Gratitude can indeed lead to a sense of being whole. Looking at the world through grateful eyes and with a thankful heart has the power to transform lives, especially when we acknowledge that the source and root of all good things is God. Take the Apostle Paul, for example, whose letters to Timothy have been part of our lectionary readings for the past few weeks. He was transformed by God’s action in his life, and his grateful response to God changed his entire trajectory and approach to living, 4228331832_9f8d3b63c3_zenabling him to withstand beatings, imprisonment, and all manner of difficulties. We witness through his words a life of thanksgiving and praise to the crucified and resurrected Christ.

Explore together this week how the good news of a life-changing attitude of gratitude make a difference in our lives today. Consider, dear preachers and teachers, how we proclaim and teach a counter-cultural way of living and being—a good gospel that has the power to make us whole. Sure, gratitude journals and happiness diaries are trendy right now, but the attitude of gratitude that comes from being a beloved and redeemed child of God is another thing entirely. We come to this place of grace and attitude of gratitude through Word, water, meal, and community. Rooted in Christ we are made new creations, and that is reason enough to give God thanks and praise.

In Worship

Mother Theresa spoke about how grateful she was to the people she was helping, the sick and dying in the slums of Calcutta, because they enabled her to grow and deepen her discipleship. Not everyone is called to go far away to serve others. We can serve our neighbors and cultivate gratitude in our own communities. Invite congregants to think of three things every day for which they are grateful. If your congregation has a Facebook page, invite them to post their gratitude lists there. Then challenge them to find at least one person in the community to whom they need to express gratitude and thanks. In future weeks either invite congregants to speak about how a gratitude emphasis is impacting their faith lives and attitude, or interview willing parties (audio or video) to share on the Facebook page and/or in worship. The more gratitude spreads and becomes part of your congregation’s culture, the more lives will be changed and Christ will be seen and experienced.

With Youth

Consider the story of Naaman from this week’s Old Testament lesson. Why do we humans try to make things so difficult? Naaman had clear, simple instructions for his healing, but it didn’t sound like it was enough, or worthy enough for his status. It turned out to be quite difficult for him to humble himself and follow Elisha’s instructions. Yet, when he finally did, he was healed. How do we tend to make discipleship more difficult and complicated than it needs to be? Take a look at Paul’s instructions this week to young preacher Timothy: Do your best, don’t wrangle over words, remember Jesus and his very good gospel. How can we apply these instructions today?

With Children

Random Notes of Thank You

Remind the children of the gospel story and how only one of the ten lepers came back to say thank you to Jesus. Tell them how good it feels to get a thank-you note from someone and how important it is to say thank you. The more you thank others and appreciate the good things you have, the more grateful you become. Give each child a pack of seven simple notes or postcards and challenge them to write one note every day this week to thank somebody else–teachers, parents, grandparents, emergency personnel, the cashier at the grocery store, the mail carrier, or other people they are grateful for. You can even make the notes easy by pre-printing postcards with the basics for the very young children:

Dear             :

Thank you for

I appreciate you, and God loves you. Have a great day!

With gratitude,


Photos: Julie Jordan Scott, Rick Bradley, and Kathy Ponce, Creative Commons. Thanks!

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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1 Comment

  1. Deb Belquist

    I LOVE this Pastor Sharron! Thank You!

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