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A Midrashic/Interpretive reading of the Scripture

Pentecost 21, Common Lectionary Year C – Thanksgiving Sunday 2016

Luke 17:11-18

©2016 Rev. Elisabeth R Jones

I love the French name for this festival
in our Canadian Calendar “Actions Grace”
the action of thankfulness,
the doing of grace,
choosing and sharing gratefulness.
It sets us up really, really well for the Gospel for today,
where we’ll see what choosing grateful looks like.

The story comes from this year’s Lectionary Gospeller, Luke.
First, let’s remember some of the things we’ve learned about
Gospeller Luke.

He loves to tell stories, but he’s a bit picky with those stories.
The ones he loves to tell are filled with ways in which God
comes close to earth,
and comes especially close to those whose lives are a struggle.
Do you remember the way Luke tells the story of Jesus’ birth?
Outside in an animal barn,
God sent angels to the shepherds in the field
so they could be the first to meet God’s Son.

For Gospeller Luke,
Jesus grows up to become
God’s love, and light,
and healing and freedom,
and kingdom dream
all come together in this living, breathing,
real human being.
God couldn’t get any closer to us than that!
Jesus is the way we know God cares,
and that God cares enough
to heal sickness and hurt,
to free those who are bound,
to lift up the lowly
to welcome the lonely,
and put the mighty in their place.

Luke’s stories are filled with these people; teenage moms, widows,
shepherds, outsiders, foreigners who are persecuted because they worship
God differently,
and all of these people are met, healed, welcomed and loved by Jesus!

Today’s story is a real Luke doozy!
Through Jesus,
God comes close to the ones who need God most;
people who are not only sick,
but lonely because of their sickness.
Jesus shares God’s healing with them,
and that’s the first wonderful part of the story,
but the second wonderful part is…..
well, let’s find out, shall we?
To tell it, I’m going to need a lot of bodies:

I need
+ ten people (at least) who are going to be outsiders, women, girls, boys, men… (back)
+ A couple of people to be the priests in the temple (chancel)
+ Jesus (but I can have a few Jesuses)…
remember, Jesus is God’s human way of sharing care and love…. Jesus is good at getting close to those the rest of us are scared of, so Jesus is gentle, and brave at the same time.
+ Some Disciples: Jesus followers: Matthew, Simon, James, John,…
+ Villagers.
Jerusalem to the back of the nave.

To all ‘players’ : when you hear the story, do the actions, say the words (some will be on the screen). Help each other out. Be part of the Gospel.
Now, I think we are ready.

Shall we let the story come?

A Story a Story,
Let it come, let it go

Jesus was walking along the road to Jerusalem.
He was with his disciples, and they were listening to him
as he shared with them wonderful stories about the Dream of God.

As they began to come near a village,
(centre of centre aisle)
they could hear something
the sound of ringing bells
What’s that?
Bells? What does that mean?

Do you know what that means?
Sometimes bells are rung to signal a time for prayer
But it wasn’t that.
Sometimes bells are rung to signal a danger, like a fire, or a storm
But it wasn’t that, either.

** Do you hear it again?
Bells and voices…
“ Stand back, stand clear, let us pass”
Silence…. then one voice

Did you know that sometimes bells were rung
to signal the danger of infection.
And this was that.

For these 10 people were sick people.
They had sores on their bodies,
and tears in their eyes.
Because of their sickness, and sores,
they had been forced from their homes
and families.
They lived outside this village,
hidden from sight in ramshackle sheds.
They had to ring the bells to warn folk to stand back and stay clear,
and they had to shout loud,
until their voices cracked, the horrible word,

If they were lucky,
good caring folk in this village
might creep out at night leave them some food,
but no-one came near,
and no-one ever hugged them,
And no-one would look at them.
They were sick,
desperate, and lonely,
and they were sad.
and they were people.
God’s own beloved people.
Even if the world had forgotten.

The ten walk part way down the aisle, huddling, not touching,
and whispering “Unclean” Stop a few pews back from “Jesus”

And one noticed Jesus, and pointed to the others,
And then they cried out
** “Jesus, Teacher,
Jesus, Lord, Have mercy!”

Jesus and his followers stopped in the road.
He turned to them and saw them.

Did you hear that? He saw them.
When Luke uses that word, he means it!
That Jesus looked at each of them, one by one,
noticing who they are,
how tall, or short, how bent,
or sick
how scarred and scared.
Is Luke’s way of telling us that
God sees every sick one that ever was or will be
Jesus saw them. Everyone.

And he said to them,
“Go, go to the village,
and there,
let the priests see you.”

Did you hear that?
When Luke uses that word, he means it!
He is telling the sick ones,
whose lives are hidden, shrouded, unseen,
He says

** “Go back into the world again,
be seen!
Be you again,
be healed.”

So these ten, they head towards the village synagogue, (towards chancel)
How do they return?
Shall we help give instructions.
Are they happy, or uncertain,
are they bold, or afraid,
are they nervous, tentative, unbelieving, yet hopeful?
What do you think?

However they travel,
they do as Jesus invited them,
and walk up the steps of the synagogue,
they knock at the door,
and the priests open the door,…
The priests are startled,
and then are horrified!
These are the sick people!
The lepers, the ones with sores on their skin,
and tears in their eyes!

Except they are NOT!
They are healed!

What do you think happens next?
If I were one of the healed, if I were a child,
and I could see that I was well again,
I’d run home to my house,
and find my mom and dad,
I’d find my friends and show them, and say
“See I’m healed!”
“See I’m healed!”
I think there might be parties, and tears of happiness,
and if there were a stream, these poor, ragged, now healed ones
would jump and splash and clean off the dirt of their ramshackle lives.
Those from farther away would probably have begun a long journey home, beyond the village, crossing borders….

Whatever happened to each of these embodied souls,
these children of God,
they go, unnoticed, into their lives, whole again.
Most return to their seats

Except one. (pick one, but there could be more….)
This one,
not a villager, but a foreigner,
Luke says, a Samaritan,
one who follows God in a different way, and is persecuted for it.
She has tears in her eyes, for sure,
but they are tears of wonder,
relief, joy,
awe, delight.
She sees (that word again), really sees,
her broken body whole,
she sees her imprisonment ended,
her shackles unbound,
her exile over,
her bent bones begin to dance,
and she turns, again,
heading not onward into her life,
not yet.

First she goes back,
takes a sacred sidewalk,
seeking one more time the source of her salving.

She looks the path up and down.
She sees (that word again), Jesus,
really sees Jesus, for who and what he is,
the hands and feet, and ears and eyes of God,
and she leaps and jumps and shouts for joy.….. (!!)
calling out his name as she runs after him…..
and collapses in a laughing, tearful,
joyful genuflection
at his feet,
full of grace,

Can you imagine?
She is a volcano of erupting gratitude!

And he, Jesus?
He looks around,
a bit surprised the nine others are no-where to be seen,
but no matter,
she is here, full of grace,

They touch,
the mutual hand hold of care and healing,
and he laughs with her at her delight!

And he says to her,
** “Get up, go on your way,
it is your faith that has made you whole.”

(Jesus and the Healed One stand centre centre aisle)

“Get up!
Go on your way,
Go into your life,
For this… this trust…
this joy, this grace… this grateful..
this turning back to see the source of our salving,
is what makes us whole,
it is what will always, always save us.”

A Story a Story
Let it come, let it go.

This is the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ,
Thanks be to God.

Choosing Grateful Reflection.

These stories tell themselves, don’t they?
When we let them come,
they write themselves into our lives.

What I treasure from this story,
on this Thanksgiving Sunday
Actions Grace,
is the choice for gratitude.
Out there in our big wide world,
with its plenitude of mean spiritedness,
and taken-for grantedness,
and selfishness, and nastiness,
there is another story, told in so many ways
in the lives of so many people,
including many of you.
It’s the story of choosing grateful.

A colleague of mine, when life handed him
a lemon – an incurable form of cancer –
he went through stoicism, to cynicism,
and despondency, resignation,
until this story, Luke’s story,
connected with his.
In reflecting on this story,
he wrote, and preached,
(and we can blame him for the odd syntax of today’s theme)
“What if I were to choose grateful?
Not only to ‘be grateful’
but to share that grateful with others?
What if I were grateful,
not just for the medicines that buy me time
to be with my family,
but also for the time to share my gratefulness
with those who share my life?
What difference will it make?
I’m going to give it a try,
I’m going to choose grateful
and I’m going to share grateful,
every day for a week.”

That week turned into a month,
then a season,
and now three years.
He is not cured, he is in fact sicker,
but he is one of the most whole,
most deeply grateful, happy people I know.

Out there, in the big wide world,
the ‘science’ of gratitude is adding
its voice to the ancient wisdom of this story;
Choosing grateful, literally makes us healthier,
more whole.
(I’ve posted more on this on my blog, you can delve into it there)
Choosing Grateful,
being and sharing grateful is what can save us,
as individuals, and as a species.
Jesus knew that,
so do many of you,
my colleague knows that in his ailing bones and soaring soul,

I’d like to invite us
to choose grateful.
I’ve been so affected by my colleague’s story,
that I’m taking his words as an invitation, or a challenge,
for all of us to ‘choose grateful’ each day for a week,
and to share that grateful with others.

You’ll find the challenge on our CPU Facebook page,
and you can join in too.
Each day, choose grateful, and share it.
Post a comment on the page.
Or you can go low-tech, and take this wallet size “grateful” with you,
and write on the back of it
a grateful which you want to share.
Next Sunday, we’ll add all this grateful to ……

……this, the beginnings of a collage banner of things for which we want to share our gratitude.

There are magazines all around the sanctuary, filled with images,
work together as a family, or as pew neighbours,
especially if that pew neighbour is not yet known to you,
choose an image each, of something for which you are grateful.
Cut it out, and bring it forward to stick on this.
If you’d rather stay in your pew, flag down someone else to bring your image forward to place on the banner.

Perhaps this is just a bit too much for some of you this morning,
I get that; life can be really hard some weeks,
and this might be one of them,
and choosing grateful is for tomorrow, not today.
For you, we have the gift of a beautiful song about ‘Grateful’
sung by the balladeer of the soul, Art Garfunkel,
and illustrated by Liisa Hakkarainen.

In a few moments it will play on the screen as our
choosing grateful gift to you
for your presence in our midst today.

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