It seems to me that the phrase "an attitude of gratitude" may seem a bit cliche, but I do believe this passage is all about that. Jesus is going about the region healing and teaching, which is all well and good, but even Jesus would get tired and cranky I imagine, and really would love to hear a thank you. You've been there, right? You bailed your kid out of one more jam, you helped again with the homework, you made a great meal, you did the dishes, all expectations of parenthood sure, but still, a thank you would be nice, but you would never say that out loud. You volunteered for the school fundraiser, you shoveled your neighbor's driveway, you donated money to the Red Cross, Episcopal Relief and Development, the United Way, and really, a thank you is all you want.
Well, the good news is that this passage isn't about us and what we want, it's about Jesus. Jesus who healed ten lepers, including a Samaritan, an alien, a foreigner. Jesus didn't even ask to see his green card, wasn't worried about whether he could adequately speak the language, Jesus just healed him, and nine others. This outsider, this alien, this foreigner, shows us all up. He's the one who thanks God, he's the one who gives God the glory. Not that any one could blame any of us for not remembering to give thanks, just look at the state of things.
But really, we know with our heads, that God is the giver of all things: every mouthful of food we take, every breath of air we inhale, every note of music we hear, every smile on the face of a friend, a child, a spouse, all that, and a million things more, are good gifts from God's abundance. There is an old spiritual discipline of listing one's blessings, naming them before God, and giving thanks. It's a healthy thing to do, especially in a world where we too often assume we have an absolute right to health, happiness and every possible creature comfort. Give it a try, make your list.
Additionally, this story shows us something else as amazing as gratitude and thankfulness. It shows us what new life and resurrection look like. Lepers were banned from their communities, they said good-bye to family, husbands, wives, children, and they go live with other lepers until their deaths. Not only did Jesus restore this man to health, he was restored to the community, and in a society in which honor was conferred by one's place in the community, that restoration was maybe even more life giving than the restoration of health. This man was dead and is alive again. Faith and gratitude travel hand in hand.
Last week, the reading we missed because of the Big Snow, was all about faith. I wondered about that passage in Luke if the story was not about not having enough faith, but about God's absolute and abundant faith in us. I wondered if the story isn't about being worthless, but about God's absolute and abundant love for us. I wondered if the story is about the awesome wonder of God's grace, the grace that makes us feel a might bit small in comparison.
Have you ever felt alone? So alone that you just sit down and weep. So alone and so afraid and so alien, that you feel like you are backed against a wall and there are no choices, no options, and that you are in a kind a prison, you can't see a way out. Last weeks readings, the Psalm especially, and Lamentations as well, are incredibly sad songs about being separated from God. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and there we wept, when we remembered our home and those who love us. These songs remind us about our own condition when we feel so totally isolated, and alienated, like we just don't fit in, like there is no one in the whole world who understands the pain of our own life. Not unlike the lepers in our reading today, banished, alone, isolated.
God calls to us in that place. The Good News is that no one is cut off from God's love, God's grace, God's forgiveness, God's healing, no one. No matter how horrible, or insignificant, or disenfranchised we think we are, no matter how far away from healing we think we are, we are not cut off from the love that wins. Sometimes, we, as did the apostles, say to The Lord, "increase our faith!" And the Lord's response is even with faith the size of a mustard seed, which is mighty small, hardly even enough to see, is enough. Indeed it is not even about how much faith you have at all, the story we embody, the story we enact, the story of Love, is the story of God's faith in us.
You see, our relationship with God is never about us at all, so it is not about how much faith you or I have. Our relationship with God is about God's faith in us. And God does have faith in us, that is shown in the pattern of the sacred story. God creates and blesses all of creation, creation turns away from God and we wander in the wilderness, God calls us back into relationship and comes into our lives in a real and incarnational way, there is forgiveness and reconciliation and transformation.
We know the truth of this relationship in the reality of death and resurrection. God accompanies us through the pain and the suffering and the joy of this life. Jesus is God in the flesh, and walks this journey with us, Jesus suffers through pain, hangs on a cross, and through Jesus God shows humanity what new life looks like. Jesus is broken, and wholeness looks nothing like life before death. It is all about death and resurrection. Talk about faith, God has faith in us.
I don't get up in the morning and ask God for more faith, I get up in the morning and know that because God has faith in me, God is faithful, I can do the work God calls me to do. Sometimes I wonder where God is, sometimes I wonder what God is up to because I sure can't figure out the plan, but that doesn't change God's faith in me. With that, some semblance of faith returns. And that faith looks like love. Love as an act of the will, love as mercy and compassion, love as justice and peace. Lord, help me to be your love in my part of the world today, Lord, help me to treat each person whose path I cross with mercy and compassion, is my prayer. Lord, help me to get on board with what you are already accomplishing in the world today. Lord, you have faith in me, help me to have faith in myself.
This world is broken, most of us are broken, and Jesus, in flesh and blood, in the bread and the wine, seeps into our very being and heals us, we are made whole in the bread and the wine. We are made whole by the love that is shown forth in this community, love that is Jesus in our midst. Jesus prepares supper for us, Jesus invites us to the table for food and drink, Jesus gives Jesus' very self so that we may be put back together, we are re-membered in a meal, in a community, that is Jesus' body.
It doesn't take much faith at all, indeed, it doesn't take any faith at all, to see the truth in these stories. We are humans, broken and loved back into wholeness. We are humans, worthy of God's love, the love that wins. And that reality causes us to give thanks and praise in all places and at all times, just like the outsider who gave thanks to God. Amen.