21st Sunday after Pentecost
WELCA Thankoffering Sunday
October 9, 2016
Luke 17: 11-19 You can click on the link to read this in Oremus Bible Browser.
My friend Derek Nelson is a gifted young theologian and professor of religion at Wabash College in Indiana. He is currently leading a group of students on a trip in South Africa. He writes:
“I will never forget today. Any single hour from today, chosen at random, would be among the most significant hours of my life. Early this morning my colleagues and I awoke early to worship at St George’s Anglican cathedral. the presiding minister was Desmond Tutu, who was celebrating his 85th birthday. He also was saying goodbye to the world. His cancer has evidently returned, causing repeated infections, and the end is near. Overcome with emotion, he repeatedly looked at the congregation and said. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” He put more generosity into each word than Niagara Falls would put water into a thimble held beneath it. Reading his farewell message, he put his tiny head into his tiny hands and wept, until he giggled, and then giggled again at having giggles while weeping. TV cameras captured every moment, and the world seemed unsure whether to grieve impending loss or celebrate his decades of lovely life.
“Then we drove to Simon’s Town and spoke with Peter Storey for two mesmerizing, exhausting and exhilarating hours. This lion of ministry is relentless in pursuit of his ideals. His integrity and creativity inspire, challenge and assure, all in equal measure. I would like to be him when I grow up, but I lack his courage. I will try to make do.
“Then we went to Cape Point, in just about the most amazing natural setting this side of Yosemite. The warm, green waters of the Indian Ocean clash with the cold blue of the Atlantic, forming a roiling canvas on which spectacular scenes of mountain, ostrich and lighthouse are painted. I was overcome, truly overcome, simply to stand there. Maybe a hidden multiplicity of feeling lay beneath what felt like a singularity; I was simply grateful. Grateful to God, grateful to my friends for sharing their joys and pains with me, grateful to my family for letting me take this trip, grateful to any who may hear these (practically-dripping-with-emotion) words. All is not right with the world, but all is right with its future, resting in God’s hands, this God who heals all wounds. Oh, my God: today.”
Gratitude. It’s what we see in the Samaritan who returned to kiss Jesus’ feet and thank him for being healed. “All of them were made clean,” says the reading, but the Samaritan was healed. He didn’t just worship Jesus, he praised God for his healing. “Your faith has made you well,” Jesus tells him.
Just to give you a little perspective on the story, it’s as if nine Christians and a Muslim meet Jesus on the road and ask for healing. They all follow Jesus directions to go get certified as clean by the priests, but only the Muslim comes back to praise God and thank Jesus.
In some ways, this story is the same story we heard last week, in which Jesus tells the disciples that faith grows through action. The trust that God is for us, beside us, and at work in us is already sufficient to do all we are asked to do or desire to do. Acting on that trust is what makes our faith strong. And now we see what can happen when we act on our trust – we can be healed. Almost too easy isn’t it?
“Where are the others,” Jesus asks. It’s almost as if they just slipped right back into their previous lives, headed for home and all that means. It’s as if they thought they deserved to be made well, and the Samaritan is not used to being heard or cared for. The difference in their reactions is gratitude. Gratitude changes everything. The recognition that each day is a gift, that love is a gift, that hope is a gift, that God is with us is a gift, is what makes a day or an event special. It is often so hard for us to see how privileged we are. Even those of us who have little live in a country that is so rich. Not just rich in material things. We never have to fear that what we say or what we write will get us arrested, jailed or tortured. Our free press and independent justice system are not that common. There are only a few countries, mostly in the Western world in which these things can be taken for granted. And often it feels as if we are never satisfied.
Gratitude is at the heart of our response to God when we notice our beautiful world, created for our joy, the families that surround us – those we are born into and those we create for ourselves. When we trust God – our act of faith, and God is close to us, gratitude is what closes the circle of love. God loves and promises, we trust and ask and act, God responds in love to our need, and we respond with recognition of the gift and our thanksgiving. Our faith and our love grows. Our lives are changed forever through the recognition of the gifts that we receive, and the gifts we are for each other. It is when our eyes are opened to the gifts of grace and beauty that come to us that each day becomes something that can change our life forever. And we can kiss Jesus’ feet and say thank you.