The author of the Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus healing ten lepers as he was on his way to Jerusalem, going through the region between Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17: 11 – 19.) And he tells them to go visit the priest (so they would be declared clean and could rejoin society.) When one, a Samaritan, later comes back and gives thanks to Jesus and praises God, Jesus asks "Were not ten lepers healed?"
And, I can hear every little inuendo spoke since "You aren't really thankful..." And I wonder. I wonder because I encounter a number of people who come to church who don't know all "the rules." And I encounter a lot of children who don't know all "the rules." By and large, rules are a good thing - they help us set healthy boundaries, they keep us from chaos, they reflect our moral and ethical standards. But when the "You aren't really thankful" voice starts to worm its way into guilting someone into submission, I can get uneasy. Afterall, the lepers were rule followers - they stayed away from the rest of society so that society wouldn't get leprosy (a rule). They went to see the priest to be declared clean (a rule.) They rejoined society (a rule.) There wasn't any rule about giving thanks, that was supposed to be a natural expression of receiving a gift. It strikes me that we can make so many rules about what to do that we overwhelm our ability to be natural. And do we not often create and insist others live by unwritten rules - again, some of which are a good thing for all and some not so much?
In the church, how do we express our gratitude? In the United Methodist Church we express our gratitude by pledging our prayers, our presence, our service, our gifts, and our witness.