Preached by Rev. Diane Tait-Katerberg on October 8, 2017.
With Grateful Hearts
“After you eat and are full,
give praise to the Lord your God
for the good land he gave you.
Make sure that you never forget he Lord
or disobey his laws and teachings
that I am giving you this day.”
For many of us:
-gatherings – family/friends
-lots to eat! Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie…. or whatever foods you associate with celebrations.
-sense of generosity
-awareness of our blessings.
So, gathered here together, we give thanks to God. Our hymns, prayers, conversations… focus on thanksgiving, on gratitude to God.
It is good to give thanks – to be aware of all the blessings we enjoy.
– Share things that you are thankful for this morning with your neighbor
On days like this, it somehow seems easier to name things for which we are grateful. We are more aware of an attitude of gratitude. But what would happen if I’d asked each of you to make a list of 100 things for which you give thanks?
Many of us would have a difficult time doing that. It is not that we’re ungrateful.
It is just that we don’t spend a lot of time being specific about the things (and people!) for whom we are thankful.
We casually say, “Thanks!” to the waiter who delivers our coffee (or tea) — or maybe we don’t.
We don’t usually focus on the details:
-the smell of freshly brewed coffee;
-the delight and comfort in the drink,
-the fact that we simply have to say what we want and it is delivered to us;
-the fact that we have enough money to pay for the coffee and the service;
-the refreshment we receive from it.
Thanks! Thanks be to God – for coffee & tea, for wait staff, restaurants and grocery stores; for moments of refreshment and relaxation; for company with whom we share these times of refreshment. Thanksgiving isn’t, of course, something you can demand of someone.
David Lose, Dear Working Preacher, 2010:
“And right there’s the problem, don’t you think? Thanksgiving—that is the expression of gratitude—can’t be commanded. It’s like your mom, after you forgot to say ‘thank you,’ prompting you with the oh-so patient ‘Your Welcome.’ Sure, you say ‘thanks’ then, but it doesn’t mean quite the same thing.”1
So is this Thanksgiving celebration of ours have any real value, or is it simply a means of “forced gratitude?” And does that mean it’s “fake gratitude?”
The story we read in Luke about the 10 Lepers gives us some insight into what thankfulness really is. And I am thankful for the work of Professor David Lose for some of the insights I share with you today.
Where will we find ourselves in the story today? Where in this story may we encounter God? For some of us, the story may make us feel ashamed: ashamed for the times that
-we did not take time to express our gratitude. Ashamed that a Samaritan – an outcast from the Jewish point of view-someone who would not be expected to set an example, who came back to thank Jesus.
However, guilt inducing is NOT the point of the story.
The story of the lepers is a story of God’s grace, not judgement. And it is a story about the importance of seeing-of noticing, paying attention, and taking note – incidents of God’s grace.
We are told that Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee, which is interesting because there really is no region between Samaria and Galilee, they border each other. This is almost like saying, the region between Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Since there is no real geography between, perhaps Luke’s point is theological. Jesus was travelling between the location of much of his ministry – Galilee – and Jerusalem – where he would die. It is a place of tension: a place where ethnic and religious differences are intensely felt. What he encounters along the way reveals something about the kingdom he will establish: a kingdom of grace and acceptance, of healing and restoration, brokenness returned to wholeness. A kingdom between what is the reality of life and the new reality of God’s kingdom.
So he encounters ten people who are cut off from the rest of the community by an illness. No one wanted to be close to them: they were “unclean.” They knew their place. They did not come close. But they recognized him. They called him “Master” which is a name otherwise used only by the disciples. They asked for mercy. As they turned to do what Jesus commanded: “Go, show yourselves to the priests,”
all ten were healed. All ten experienced God’s grace.
But one noticed. One saw.
One took in the awesomeness of what had happened changed his course to first give thanks. What he did was to see and recognize. That is what made the difference and, in gratitude, say “thank you!”
In noticing, letting what happened sink in, something changed in the leper:
- he recognized Jesus – his reign and his power
- he changed direction to express his thanksgiving and to thank God.
The story “…serves as an invitation to believers – then and now – to recognize that what we see makes all the difference. In the face of adversity, do we see danger or opportunity? In the face of human need, do we see demand or gift? In the face of the stranger, do we see potential enemy or friend?
…. When we look to God, do we see stern judge or loving parent?: When we look to ourselves, do we see failure or beloved child? When we look to the future, do we see fearful uncertainty or open horizon…how we answer dramatically shape both our outlook and our behavior.”2 David Lose
Ten people, socially, religiously, and physically unclean, encountered Jesus and were made well. One experienced even more: he recognized Jesus and expressed his gratitude which changed his life. More than being healed, he was drawn back into relationship with God and humankind – what we call “saved.” Being told to be thankful does not, in itself, make us thankful. However, reminders sometimes make us aware. And as we become aware, and are able to see, we may respond with true thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving – “Harvest Thanksgiving” is a specific time of being reminded. There are other ways that we may be intentional about reminding ourselves to open our eyes and our awareness to God’s many acts of grace in our lives and our communities.
For some of us, making a special time to reflect on the blessings of the day may help us be open to true thankfulness. On “Hub” (a presbyterian website for women), theologian, writer, and friend Laura Alary has written an article about her growth in thankful awareness following a time of depression.
“A few years ago a friend gave me a mala, a set of 108 beads used in prayer and meditation. She explained that at the end of every day, I should sit down, take the first bead between my thumb and forefinger, and name something in my life for which I felt thankful. At first, this seemed awkward and burdensome, like writing the than you notes my mom used to insist I compose every time I received a gift or was invited somewhere. For the first few nights I handled my mala beads the way I had those thank you notes: I zipped through the first few with zeal and good intentions but then ran out of ideas and grew bored and slightly resentful. Determined to make my way through all 108 beads I started naming small things; the first ripe peach of the season; the smell of the coffee beans when I opened the fresh bag; the gentle way the woman on the bus spoke to her little son; the feel of the hot shower on my skin in the morning; the evening breeze through my window; the tantalizing first chapter of my new library book; a particular chord in a song; some lyrics wiich touched me deeply. To my surprise, one small thing quickly led to another and in no time I had travelled all the way around the mala. After a few evenings of this I realized that I actually felt happier and more content.”
When we pay attention to the specific things that God is doing, we cannot help but be stirred to thankfulness and in our gratitude, find joy.
(Douglas Wood, “The Secret of Saying Thanks”, quoted in L. Alary article.)
“We don’t give thanks because we’re happy, we are happy because we give things.”
And this is yet another gift of God.
Thanks be to God!