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A Conversation about Gratitude

19th after Pentecost, Common Lectionary Year A

Luke 17: 11-19

©2020 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones, Martha Randy

Introduction to scripture
Intro to Martha’s reflection on practice of gratitude

This gospel healing story is one many of us learned as children,
when we accepted the miracle as a ‘Jesus-y’ normal thing to do,
but we were likely subjected to a bit of Sunday school teacher
moral finger wagging…
“Jesus likes to hear “thank you,” so you should write
all those thank you notes on Boxing day.”

It’s really not bad teaching,
to learn from an early age a ‘practice of gratitude.
After all, it’s one of the glues that cements
the mutual respect of relationships,
that we are persistent in the expression
of ‘thank you’ not just for the exceptional gifts,
but for the everyday acts of attention,
like unasked for cups of tea, and the biggie;
changing out the spent loo roll!

But… this Gospel has to be about more than that, surely?
The geographic and social and physical location of this incident,
at the margins of everything is our first clue
that Jesus’ questions at the end
are not merely the bromides of a moral policeman – Jesus was never that!
but are the questions that reach beyond the incident
to you and me, the Theophili (God lovers)
who are asking what impact this Jesus
is going to have on the living of our lives.
As Jesus by his rhetorical question, puts the spotlight
on this outsider’s act of resilient gratitude,
he’s asking us to pay attention to notice, both her, and us.

Let me see if I can resituate Jesus’ question for us, or at least for me;
“Why is it that nine times out of ten, I don’t notice grace or blessing?
Why is it that nine times out of ten, I don’t take the time to marvel
at the miracles of a rising sun, the kiss of the prevailing wind,
the bounty that is mine to feast on from my garden and at the supermarket?
Why is it that nine times out of ten, I take so much of what I have
-health, income, love- for granted?

There may be many reasons for each of us
as to why 9 times out of 10,
gratitude isn’t our response to the world.
It could of course be situational… but I’ll come back to that.
It could be fear, that’s a big one.
It could be busyness or an overblown self-importance (guilty).

One I’d like us to consider as being faithful to the text,
is this: Is it perhaps because I am centred in this world,
I’m near the apex of the hierarchy of privilege:
I’m a member of a culturally privileged religion, I’m white,
educated, healthy, living in one of the richest countries.
So, when Jesus says,
“why is it that none give thanks to God except this one,
a foreigner, an outsider, the one at the bottom of every pyramid?”
I find myself wincingly nodding,
and thanking Jesus (via Luke)
for the gift of the question that pierces
for the purpose of opening us up
to something as miraculous as healing and saving.

But there’s another thing about that nine-times-out of ten question;
it points us to the very distinct possibility that this
radical, resilient act or practice of gratitude
of the healed outsider,
is actually rather hard to get the hang of!
Like any “practice” it takes practice!

Who better to talk with about this than our own
Coordinator for ministry with families and youth,
Martha Randy. This was recorded earlier this week.
The conversation was 2 hours long, but we’ve clipped it, a bit!
We’ll begin with the question to Martha
about what she remembers about how she approached or faced
the world before she began an intentional practice of gratitude.
Here’s her answer.

It’s the reminder, the constant place where Martha’s heartbeat
echoes that of God’s constancy and healing/saving love.

In Martha’s words and demeanour, we can see
that a practice of Gratitude,
the practice Jesus was
spotlighting in the action of the healed outsider,
is about training our awareness,
no matter who or where we are in life,
deepening and directing our attention
to the world’s innate and resilient
abundance and goodness
in such a way that we begin to see the world,
and live in it,
differently, resiliently, gratefully.

We mused about setting ourselves another
Thanksgiving Challenge this year,
but have decided against it.
We know too many of you are holding on by a thread,
so instead of a challenge, a gift…..
check out if you’re so inclined.
Or simply take a few deep breaths as you turn out the light,
and promise yourself one moment of gratitude before you sleep.
From such tiny seeds
great gratitude is born, and it will change you life.
We know.

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