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Healed and Rejoicing

Jeremiah 29:1,4-7
Luke 17:11-19

All of today’s scriptures raise various issues around the theme of giving thanks in this season of thanksgiving. Unbridled thanks in the Psalm that the choir has just sung for us. A sense of thanksgiving despite hardship in the reading from Jeremiah, and thanksgiving because of the joy of healing in the gospel.

If you were to reflect over the last 24 hours of your own life, what might be some of the things for which you might give thanks? What emotions and degrees of gratitude would you associate with various events in that time? When is it easy to give thanks and to praise God? When is it difficult?

I sometimes wonder why giving thanks is easier for some than for others? Why there are some who come at life with the glass half empty; and why there are others, who, even in times as devastating as terminal illness, feel and express profound gratitude, even for the most simple of things; a glass of water on parched lips; a prayer; or a hug.

This week someone in the congregation sent me an e-mail about Charles Schultz’ philosophy. Schultz as you know was the creator of the Peanuts cartoon series. Shultz asks us to:

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

Shultz says the point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. They are not second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s another quiz he gives. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier?

The lesson says Shultz The people who make a difference in your life are NOT the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care. And I would add the question: How many of those people have you thanked, and told them how much they changed your life?

In the gospel, a story is told of a group of 10 men with leprosy whom Jesus encounters on his travels. They stand far away as they knew they are unclean. They could not live with their families in the towns…. They had to live in leper colonies in the wild. They were not allowed to be near anyone who was healthy. Gradually the disease would progress till fingers or toes, or whole limbs fell off, or faces were disfigured; and death would come. But before ever the disease got to that stage, normal life, self-esteem, dignity for them had died. They were outcasts; people who were feared and looked down upon. The Samaritan leper had a double jeopardy as a half-breed as well as a leper. So they come to Jesus… maybe to check him out. Maybe it’s a chance encounter.

Jesus does not run away, or look through them pretending that they don’t exist….the way a number of us do when we meet street people downtown. The story does not say anything about how the healing happens, but Jesus tells them to go to the priest so they can be declared clean….And on the way they notice that they are healed….nine go excitedly on their way to the priest, anxious to be reunited with the life they had left behind…family and friends…The Samaritan…is the only one who returns to give thanks. One wonders why?

As I’ve meditated this story this week, I’ve been thinking about the dynamics of this story for my own life and have some questions I invite you to think about for yourself. Have there been times when you’ve felt like the leper? the outsider? the outcast? Perhaps times when something has been eating away at you in a way that was destroying your health and your self-esteem? Was there someone who was willing to cross the line to meet you; to listen to you; to reach out to you; to care for you; to heal you? How did they do that? What happened as a result of it? Have you said thanks?

Or have there been times when someone came into your life and changed the direction you were headed…Someone whose presence in your life, meant that you experienced healing? Or experienced new meaning? Someone who made you feel special? appreciated? Someone who helped you see yourself in a way that allowed you to be free? to be all that you were meant to be? Have you said thanks?

Or have there been times when you’ve been like one of the 9 who experienced someone who changed your life….and you barreled ahead with your newfound energy….and kind of forgot the person, and the experience that turned you around? As you look back and remember, is there a way that you can let that person know how important they were to you? Can you say thanks?

Or maybe you have been the person like Jesus, who has encountered someone whom others have looked down on…someone addicted, someone abused, someone of a different race or sexual orientation….Have you, like Jesus, ever been the person who was able to cross the line to encounter the other in a deep and healing way? Have you ever been someone who has set another free, helped them to stand on their own two feet, Have you ever helped someone see how special and wonderful they were when they had lost sight of it for themselves Have you ever helped someone reclaim their dignity and their wholeness? Have they ever said thank you to you?

Wherever we find ourselves in this story today, I invite us to remember with thanksgiving those who have touched our lives with healing and with wholeness. And I invite us to remember to say thanks.

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