Sermon St. Mary's Nanoose
October 13, 2019
When I was a young, we lived in a neighbourhood full of children. We all came home from school for lunch everyday and every once and a while, if our mother had to be out for an appointment or something, we would go to a neighbour’s home for lunch. And likewise, sometimes kids would come to our home. I remember repeatedly the children from next door being sent over in the afternoon on such a day, to thank our mother for the lunch. The three of them would stand at the door and say in monotone unison, “Thank you for the lovely lunch, Mrs. Krayenhoff,” and then turn and run off…. duty done.
On one occasion, our family was having dinner when they arrived, and once they left, my parents took the opportunity to talk about saying thank you; how to mean it, and how to be specific about what you were appreciative of. It’s a lesson that’s stayed with me. When we are genuine and specific, it means we need to have noticed what was generously extended to us and how our lives have been made richer by that gift. Gratitude is not a platitude. It’s part of the Divine Exchange…. it feeds, supports and enrichs life because gratitude always attunes us to the One who created everything and creates all possibility – God. Gratitude helps us enter into relationship – to be focused on someone other than ourselves.
In the gospel reading from Luke today, we heard the story of ten lepers who ask to be healed by Jesus. As they are walking to see the priest, as Jesus has directed them to do, one of them notices that he has, in fact, been “made clean.” Does this mean the others don’t even notice? How could they not? Leprosy is quite noticeable. We don’t know why they don’t notice. What we do know is that the one who looks down and sees that he has been healed, turns back, finds Jesus, falls at his feet, thanks him and praises God.
So okay, let’s pay attention. This is a good formula - to ask for healing from whatever ails us, to trust and to pay attention to how the healing might arrive, when it does to search out Jesus, humble ourselves, and allow gratitude to flow out.
There’s power in this formula – in acknowledgment and gratitude, for listen to what Jesus says: “Your faith has made you well.” Does this mean that healing isn’t complete until it is recognized and given thanks for? What an interesting idea!
Does this suggest that for the 9 other lepers, there was healing but it has gone unrecognized? It’s clear that gratitude was not forthcoming – so maybe the other 9 didn’t see their healing. And in that failure, they weren’t fully restored. Maybe they didn’t truly believe they could be healed. For faith is a crucial component. Faith seems to allow us to see what is really going on. Faith gives us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to respond.
Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning and the survivor of a Nazi concentration camp made the following statement that has been a guiding principle for me as an adult:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.“ We can’t control the people and world around us. But it is in our power to choose whether we react or respond. Do we carefully consider our options? Or do we lash out without thinking? Do we walk through life half asleep – like the 9 healed lepers – or are we paying attention, alert to activity of God in our lives, and ready to respond with open eyes and hearts?
As Christians, we are called to respond to life with an awareness of God’s action in the world. It’s too easy to fall into judgment, disillusionment, despair. But who are we to know how God is moving in any situation? We need to keep our eyes and ears open, we need to check our hearts to see if they feel hard and closed, or soft and open. We need to pray and we need to stay grounded. And can we, in the midst of all the things that confuse us, give thanks for all that we have been given? Can we open our eyes to all the ways in which we are blessed? Every situation is an opportunity to practice, as individuals and as a community, how to respond with soft, forgiving, curious and grateful hearts.
This morning I stand here looking out at this congregation. It where it feels like just yesterday that I was appointed to be your priest by the bishop. Three and ½ years ago, I came to St. Mary’s intent on fixing things; and instead I’ve learned how to love St. Mary’s more than I could ever imagine.
I look out at you in wonder – Isn’t it amazing how we gather faithfully week after week; hungry for the words of wisdom and hope, singing our hearts out and feasting together at the table? I see how much time, care and effort you put into supporting one another and looking after these beautiful buildings and grounds in such quiet and generous and unassuming ways. You inspire me!
God is doing miraculous things here at St. Mary’s and in the world. We work to pay attention to how Jesus heals us and sends us on the path of freedom and abundance. Together we’re learning how to see and believe! As we glimpse the miracle that our parish is, perhaps we can say something like the ancient poet who said:
“Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. Fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when Presence, like lightning, illuminates the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see wherever we gaze and exclaim in wonder: “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it!”
This is a happy Thanksgiving. We are a blessed people. Let us give thanks to God as we come as a community to the table of love and plenty.