Thank You

Thank You

Jesus Cleanses Ten Men with a Skin Disease
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with a skin disease approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’s[f] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? So where are the other nine? Did none of them return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 (NRSVUE)

As children, we are taught to say “thank you” when someone gives us something or does something nice for us. Sometimes we are even taught to write thank you notes, especially after being given a gift for our birthday, a special event or a holiday.

I did a little research that confirmed that expressing gratitude is not a new custom. Many centuries ago, in ancient Chinese and Egyptian cultures, people would write messages of thanks on pieces of papyrus or bamboo slips. During the Middle Ages, the practice of writing thank-you notes continued but was reserved for use by royalty and the upper class since most of the general population could not read or write. In the 15th century, handwritten letters became more common throughout Europe. People began writing letters to show their gratitude for gifts and kind gestures. This was the precursor to today’s modern “thank-you note.” Here in the United States, thank-you notes gained popularity in the 19th century, and that is where Miss Manners stepped in. Etiquette experts encouraged people to send handwritten notes to show thanks for even the smallest gestures. Personalized stationery and thank-you cards became commonplace in the 20th century. Okay, so we all know that it is nice–and even proper–to say “thank you.” But sometimes, what society teaches us to do is understood a little differently when we look at it through the eyes of faith.

Today, we heard a story about Jesus and how he healed ten people who suffered from leprosy. Leprosy is a terrible infectious disease that causes open sores on people’s skin. And in Jesus’ day, anyone with leprosy was considered unclean and was not allowed in public. It’s a simple story; we all heard it. Ten people came to Jesus in need of help. They asked, no they begged him to help them. He helped them, and they went on their way. Then, one of them, once he realized that he was healed, turned back to say thank you. But he didn’t just say thank you; he lay face down on the ground in front of Jesus as a sign of worship. And how did Jesus respond? He said, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Friends, all ten people were cleansed of their disease, but that wasn’t the miraculous part. The miracle happened when this one man’s eyes were opened, and suddenly, he could see the grace of God all around him; he began to live with a grateful heart.

Friends, so often in today’s world, we walk around blind. Sure, we can see physical things in the world, but we miss out on God’s abundant love and grace that is all around us. Now, some of that comes when we learn to be thankful not just for gifts or presents or for people being nice to us but when we learn to be thankful right where we are–not where we want to be or where we’re working or hoping to be, or when we receive the things that we want, but when we learn to be thankful in the here and now, just as we are. Folks, we are all blinded by the constant need to have more and to be more. We worry about what our neighbors have. We worry about what is coming next and who is going to get there first.

In today’s story, we didn’t hear Jesus follow Miss Manners’s etiquette by saying “you’re welcome” to the man’s “thank you.” No, he said, “Go on your way, for your faith has made you well.” Friends, when we choose to live lives of faith, I don’t mean just on Sunday morning faith or at the holidays faith, but I mean living lives of faith every single hour of every single day. We begin to see a beauty in the world all around us that others can’t see. It comes from being present in each moment. It comes from putting our judgments aside. It comes from not worrying about what other people think or what is coming next but appreciating the here and now, this very moment because it is a gift!

I officiated a funeral service for a sixty-eight-year-old woman this week who had two sons. The love that that family had for each other was amazing! When I asked the boys what made their mom so special, they said she was fully present in every moment. She wasn’t like one of those busy moms who didn’t have time for her kids. If you talked to her, she would listen without judgment. She paid attention to you like there was no one else in the room, and she celebrated things that no one else seemed to see.

It made me smile because I had just had a conversation with Terry Forbes during Coffee Connection this week. She told me that each morning when she opens her Thankfulness devotional, she thinks to herself, “Okay, what is she going to be thankful for today?” Then she told me that she was waiting to open it someday and read that I was thankful for a door hinge! (Just wait until tomorrow, Terry!) But that conversation got me thinking. Back during the pandemic, we were all struggling. Many of us were anxious and angry, lonely, and scared. And I’ll admit, my faith during that time was wavering, too. But then we started the “Glimpses of Grace” emails, and for two hundred days in a row, we shared where we saw grace in the world. Each email that I received from someone sharing their glimpse of grace, only inspired me to keep searching. Many glimpses of grace were found amid struggles. And the more we shared our glimpses of grace, the more our eyes were opened to God’s movement in the world around us. Because folks, when we share the gifts we receive, they blossom into something far more beautiful. And the same thing is true when we truly live lives of thanksgiving. Our eyes are opened to the blessings around us and within us, and we start to understand that the more we share with others, the more we receive ourselves. Now, I don’t mean that, in a secular world understanding of economics, I give to receive my fair share. No, it’s not a transaction but a way of living.

A friend of mine told me a story about a woman who used to sit outside of St. Peter’s Church in Cambridge. My friend would see her each day as she walked to work from the train station. She was a middle-aged woman who looked like she had lived a tough life, and in the colder weather, she always wore an old coat and red scarf. She would ask for spare change from people passing by. But she always greeted everyone with a smile and a pleasant “Good morning,” whether they gave her money or not. My friend often gave her a little money because she said the woman just seemed so nice. After about a year, the woman disappeared. My friend wondered what had happened to her, and she asked around to see if anyone had seen her, but no one had. Then, one November day, she was back in front of the church again, still wearing the same old coat and red scarf. My friend smiled as she saw her, then reached into her pocket to get some money to give to the woman, but the woman stopped her. “Thank you for helping me all those days,” she said. “You won’t see me again because I got a job.” With that, the woman reached into a bag and handed my friend something wrapped in brown paper. She had been standing at her old spot waiting, not for a handout, but for the people she recognized so that she could give each of them a homemade cookie because she was thankful for their kindness.

My friends, thankfulness calls us to share what we have with others, not to settle accounts, to make things fair, or to say “thank you” because Miss Manners tells us that we’re supposed to, but because our faith calls us to something even bigger. Folks, if you haven’t heard it already, I’ve got some tough news for you. Life is not fair. Everyone is not treated equally, no matter how hard we try. Fair and equal are secular words used by society. But grace and joy and love and thankfulness are words of faith. And those are ways of truly rich living.

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, don’t forget to say thank you to each moment you experience, not because they are always good or because Miss Manners tells you to, but because as a person of faith, it’s simply the way you live. And on this Pledge and Promise Sunday, don’t worry about what everyone else gives or what you think you should give. But instead, search your heart and remember that when we share the gifts we receive, they blossom into something far more beautiful.

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!


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