Message: Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Psalm 65; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19
Sometimes we simply forget to say thank you. It’s not that we’re not grateful. We are. This past week, in an effort to show thankfulness to God for our many blessings, a bunch folks chose to serve. People bought turkeys. Others, while already serving eighteen to twenty folks at their own Thanksgiving table came, picked up a turkey, cooked a turkey, sliced a turkey and returned it to our kitchen. Today more than one hundred pounds of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries and vegetables will be prepared and assembled into carry out meals, packed into a truck and delivered to our friends along the streets of Fairfax. Our friends on the streets, they never forget to say thank you. God places in our path folks to help us remember to be thankful.
Thankfulness is at the very heart of who we are as a faithful body of folks gathered as the church. In fact, our central form of worship, Holy Eucharist means: blessed thanksgiving. We come together as Christ’s own to give thanks and praise to God as God’s most holy community. Sharing in this bread and this cup is sharing in the very blessedness of Christ himself, given for us, through his life, death and resurrection, that we too may be the very hands and feet of Christ in the world, as living examples of thanksgiving. Thankful to serve in Christ’s name. Thankful to love Christ and love one another as Christ loves us. We know what thank you means.
But, sometimes we forget to say thank you. In today’s story from Luke’s gospel, ten are healed. Only one returns to offer thanksgiving to God. The other nine seem to have forgotten to give thanks. Why? Well, isn’t it true that when our life has fallen apart, and then restored we’re so excited to get back to what was, we can easily forget to cover our tracks and say thank you? Or, as the ten lepers cried out to Jesus for mercy, maybe only one truly believed it was God in Christ who could heal them? And, oddly enough, it’s the Samaritan, the one who actually is not part of the supposedly believing group who turns back to Jesus. Perhaps the other nine actually are not healed as they still suffer from the ailment of ingratitude.
Thankfulness is a seed planted which grows. The seed grows when it is nurtured; we practice thanksgiving. Over this past week, I’ve been struck by the intentional nurturing of thankfulness in the works.
Entering into the parking lot of traffic merging onto I95 yesterday, I took a quick glance at the traffic warning sign that flashes during congested travel times, expecting news of an accident ahead. Instead, it read, “Virginia Gives Thanks for Safe Drivers.” Tuesday afternoon, I stopped at Zoes across the street to get my usual refill on iced tea. After filling my cup and topping it off with a squeeze of lemon, I strolled over to the cash register to pay. The cashier behind the counter turned with a big smile and said, “it’s on me…Happy Thanksgiving.”
Early yesterday morning, while at my desk, the phone rang. On the other end of the line I recognized a good friend of Epiphany’s whom we have helped over the years from time to time. This gentleman is exceptional in that he never forgets to say “thank you.” He simply called to say thank you for all we’ve done for him in the past. I promise you, my friends, it hasn’t been much. But, he isn’t measuring.
Another faithful soul stopped by to show thanksgiving for the many blessings he’s received from God and left some cash for us to use to help those in need. Another stopped by to give a gift card that we might be able to help another. Thanksgiving extended, offered by those who have chosen to turn back, regardless of their circumstances. Remembering to turn back to give thanks for all the blessings God bestows upon us…
Over this past little while, I reached out to all of you to learn what you’re thankful for.
The truth of thankfulness comes from the preschoolers who were very quick to share. They are thankful for: mommy and daddy and brother and sister and teachers and school and healthy family and food and drinks and basketball and video games and dogs and cats and fish. Older folks, while not necessarily any wiser, shared that they are thankful for: friends, shelter and music; for breathing life into our bodies, for church, for upcoming retirement; that we can sing with joy.
Some of us may not be feeling so thankful about all things these days. One wise, contemplative soul reached down past her current dismay and mentioned that she’s at least thankful we’re not in a nuclear war. Another, having climbed out from sickness and hurt rightfully wrote that she is thankful for her “trinity”: her physician, her psychoanalyst and her priest, who got her through pain and loss only to discover that “God is so amazing.”
God is so amazing, and comes to us when we go about the busy-ness of our day and forget that all that is good, all that is loving, all that is merciful, comes from God in Christ. When we find ourselves cast out, alienated, hurting God enters with miraculous healing. And, along the way, God, too, through the life, death and resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ, comes lovingly, holding us accountable, questioning our whereabouts. God remembers that we forget. So, God comes and turns us in another direction that we can be healed of our thanklessness. And, it’s not too late. Go back. What people, place or thing are we remembering to be thankful for today?
And we say…Thanks Be to God…Alleluia! Alleluia!