We are all familiar with this weekend’s Gospel Story [ Luke 17:11-19] of the healing of the ten lepers & the one who returned to give thanks for the miracle of his new health. Most Churches use the Scripture on Thanksgiving Day. So, before we look to other meanings, and perhaps, deeper meanings — or even related meanings, let’s not miss the opportunity to deal with some obvious departure points for reflection:
> For whom am I thankful — while we would no doubt miss anyone close to us, who are the three to five people who are at the core of our lives? Who are the three to five people upon whom we depend for emotional and spiritual strength? Who are the three to five people — without whom — our lives would be rocked? Do I thank God for these people regularly? Do these people know how important they are to me through deed and word?
> For what am I thankful — we often say, “when you have your health, you have everything!” do we really mean it and appreciate the status of our health? Do we show gratitude by taking care of our health and monitoring any conditions that threaten good health?
> For what material things am I thankful — there are lots of things we do not have. There are a lot of things we wish we had. Am I conscious of how much I have or do I spend more time wishing for more and complaining about what I do not have?
> How much of my prayer-time is expressing thanks for what I have — do I begin my prayer with prayer of thanksgiving? do my prayers of thanks lead to a spirit of graciousness and trust — or do I move on to asking about what I need and end up in fear? Does my thankfulness lead to a spirit of calm and an intent to do good?
Stores are already beginning to fill with Christmas decor. Ads are beginning to run about special layaway programs. Many a child — and I am sure some adults — have begun to dream big about what Christmas might bring. We all try to teach children about gratitude and about appreciating what we have.
As I spend time with my 8-year-old great-nephew, Henry, I see images of what it must have been like when I was 8 years old. Taking him to one of those stores where they sell yogurt by the ounce is a once-in-awhile treat. It is not something we can do every week. last week we went to McDonald’s for a smoothie. I do not think he has yet grasped the point that some folks do not even get a McDonald’s smoothie.
Gratitude and giving thanks is a lesson learned over and over again.
Imagine though, what life must have been like for the leper who returned to Jesus to give thanks. Imagine the joy in his heart as he rushed home to see friends and family he had not seen for so long. It must have been like those TV images of soldiers returning home from a war zone. The depth of his gratitude must have changed his life and the lives of those around him forever.
How deep are our lives affected by our gratitude?
After Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy [2 Kings 5:14-17] he and his whole retinue returned to the man of God [Elisha] and offered a gift. A part of why we worship each weekend is to offer the thanks and to give to God a gift — our tithe — and the best gift, the gift of ourselves.
Our nation has created a national holiday to give thanks — and that is good. But, thanksgiving is a part of life. In the coming week let’s pause before meals to give thanks. Let’s begin all prayer with a word of thanks. And let’s take stock of all for which we are thankful: People who are core to our lives, materials things, opportunities, experiences.