A Time to be Thankful

“It is often the stranger in the church who sings heartily the hymns we have long left to the choir, who expresses gratitude for blessings we had not noticed, who listens attentively to the sermon we think we have already heard, who gets excited about our old Bible, and who becomes involved in acts of service to which we send small donations. Must it always be so?”

Anytime I can work in a quote by Fred Craddock is a good one, especially as it relates to this time of year.

Thanksgiving is also a good time to look to the story of the 10 lepers (Luke 17). Most of us are familiar with the encounter with these men who stood at a distance and called out for Jesus to have mercy on them. Jesus did something unlike many of us, in that he looked at them and spoke to them as he entered the village. He didn’t say “you are healed” but instead told them to “go, show yourselves to the priests.” This is another way of saying that they were already healed but needed validation from the priest in order for them to rejoin the community. Sure enough, on the way to the priests, they realized they had been healed.

In short, Jesus gave them hope and a return to their community.

In spite of this incredible gift, only ONE returned. This man had two strikes against him–he had leprosy, and he was a Samaritan. Apparently, he at least had a community of nine others who accepted him despite his racial heritage. They somehow looked beyond their prejudice to accept him among their number. Leprosy fell into the category of “misery loves company” and it didn’t matter that he wasn’t a Jew.

The story is obviously about gratitude, but there is an overarching theme. From Luke 9.51, we learn that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified for the sins of the whole world. This singular purpose overshadows every encounter Jesus has on the way to the cross. Jesus’ response to the Samaritan, “rise and go, your faith has made you well” signals not only physical healing but also spiritual. Ten men were healed, one man was saved.

Thanksgiving is a good time to not only count our blessings, but to recognize that the real blessing is Jesus. The gospel transcends social boundaries and all class distinctions.

We’re experiencing a great deal of uncertainty and unrest in our world, but I hope that we can slow down enough to realize that gratitude leads to grace. Let’s be gracious and grateful in our words and actions this Thanksgiving–DC

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