“He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” Luke 17:11-19
What gets in the way of gratitude? It is said that misery loves company. Ten men are bound together by a debilitating skin disease in chapter seventeen of Luke’s gospel. And, while Judaic Law requires their isolation from society, family, friends, the community at large, it is their common illness that unites them, not their ethnicity. For one of the men is a Samaritan, an enemy and not of the chosen Judaic community. When Jesus comes strolling by on his way to Jerusalem, the ten scream for healing help. When have we, without a moment’s thought to how thankful we are, screamed for healing help when our life is falling apart? Healing will restore them to family, friends, neighbors, schools, work, to life! Jesus, obeying the ancient priestly law, miraculously heals the ten. Why does just the one return to express gratitude? Why haven’t the other nine found their way back to say thank you?
We live in a culture promoting consumerism as a means to happiness. This weekend is a sure and certain example of our misconstrued understanding of happiness. Black Friday sales announcements pop across our screen every several seconds to let us know we don’t have to wait. Take advantage. Avoid the rush. Come shop now! Materialism is our road to happiness. In fact, we’re entitled to our materialistic abundance. And, it seems that a society that believes itself entitled to things does not necessarily express gratitude. Why would we give thanks for what is rightfully ours? It’s not just “things”. We’re known to find relationships expendable also. How many households are truly struggling this Thanksgiving season for want of healthy, whole relationships with family, friends and neighbors that are still distant and merciless, begging for a glimpse of happiness?
What gets in the way of gratitude? Us. Sure, the other nine are thankful. But, now healed, how quickly they forget as life returns to normal. The cultural road to happiness resumes as they go off to catch the Black Friday sale, feast with family and friends, and rely on the limitations of their own ability. But, the one who chooses to let loose his complete and total self to God. The one with his life changed forever, with new possibilities before him, opportunities he’s not imagined, humble, comes before God in Christ, with praise and thanksgiving, ready to embrace, not just a life restored. He comes with a life of outlandish gratitude and is filled with abundant joy. A life of gratitude means and action that turns us away to a new life.
A life of gratitude turns us from inward to outward. We give thanks to God for all that grows, the mountains and hills, the seas and the lakes, the desert sands and the grassy hills, for stars that shine, for the moon and the sun and all that God has done. An attitude of gratitude places our gaze upon those people, places and things that sustain us and suppose for us possibilities. An attitude of gratitude helps us realize our own illusion of self-importance and the miracle of God’s wonder. An attitude of gratitude is recognition that each step we take, every breath we breathe, all that our eyes can see, our ears can hear, our nose can smell, our mouth can taste, is not what we’re entitled too, but a true, genuine and abundant gift, from God. An attitude of gratitude results in happiness.
Express some gratitude. Did you know Eucharist is the Greek word for thanksgiving? Come to Holy Eucharist tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. We’ll give thanks to God for our many blessings. Take your worship bulletin home with you. Share Luke’s gratitude gospel story and ask, what keeps us from saying thank you? Then, pray the thanksgiving prayers listed in the bulletin while around your table. Got a packet of post-it notes? Hand them out with colorful markers. Ask folks to write, or draw, their words of thanksgiving on the post-it note. Post your thanksgivings around your table. Ask folks to read aloud or describe the notes while sharing your meal. Remember those who have less. Bring food items for Food4Thought and the Food Pantry. Donate toiletries and warm clothes to the Hypothermia Shelter. Bring new toys for the Toys for Tots box so children are able to celebrate Christmas. Thank you!
On Sunday we’ll celebrate Christ the King, the last Sunday after Pentecost with a Congregational Sing. Kids in Sunday School will learn of the many faces of Jesus, especially through the words of mighty prophets. Youth Confirmation and Episcopal 101 for Adults will meet following worship for an Instructional Eucharist in the worship space. Sunday evening beginning at 6:00 we’re once again blessed by the fine teaching of resident scholar, John Rybicki and the Science and Religion class. All are invited as again we give thanks for a day of God’s mighty works in our lives.
As always, I’m grateful to God for blessing Epiphany with a joyful spirit, a passion to GROW and be all God invites us to be. You are an amazing people!