"RECOGNIZING OUR BLESSEDNESS"

Scripture:  Luke 17:11-19

MANNERS

When I was a kid, I wasn’t the best at showing manners.  I’ve mentioned before that I was extremely shy and that I didn’t generally talk to anybody other than my friends and my immediate family.  Unfortunately, and to my mom’s dismay, this meant that I generally probably came off as a fairly rude child…  Or at least not the most well-mannered.

For example, I was never the first one to jump up and say “thank you” to the parent who was kind enough to bring snacks for the whole team after a soccer game.  I wasn’t even the second, or the third…  I tried my best to sneak into the middle of the pack, nodding in agreement, hoping that my nod and a smile gave the impression that I was, in fact, thankful for the Oreo Cookies and Capri Sun.

I remember having friends that were great at that, though.  They remembered to say “please” and “thank you” at every possible opportunity.  I was always impressed with them.  It wasn’t that I was trying to be rude.  It was just that it took a lot of effort for me to get the courage to say it.  By the time I finally did, it was awkwardly late and I wasn’t sure if it was even appropriate to say “thank you” anymore.  “…Oh, by the way, Mrs. Davis, thank you for dinner three nights ago!”

Other times, I would just be too excited…  Or I would feel other people already beat me to the punch, or thanked people on my behalf already.  And there have been plenty of times that I have just plain taken people’s generosity for granted.

THE LEPERS

So, when I think about our scripture passage this morning, there’s a part of me that really wants to stand up for the nine lepers who didn’t return to give thanks to Jesus for healing them.  After all, we don’t get their side of the story.  Maybe they came back later and gave thanks, and Luke just forgot to write an addendum to this story.  Maybe they all agreed that the Samaritan leper would give Jesus thanks on all of their behalf.  Maybe they were just too excited to show the priest that they were clean and get back to their lives and their families, who they hadn’t seen since being cast away from society.

Then again, the overwhelming evidence from the context of this passage tells us that they just plain took Jesus’ generosity for granted.  They missed the boat.  They failed to recognize the full extent of the blessing that they received and show proper gratitude.  They treated Jesus’ healing as something that they deserved, rather than an act that draws them to praise God.

When Jesus healed their skin condition, Jesus transformed their entire lives.  They would no longer be banished from their homes, their families, and their communities.  They would no longer be kept out of the synagogue.  In the healing of their bodies, they received new life, new hope, and new possibilities…  But only the Samaritan leper was able to see that Jesus offered healing for his heart and soul, in addition to his body.

UTILITARIAN FAITH

As I thought through how this passage relates to our lives today, my heart grew heavy.  It grew heavy because I know that, more often than not, I fall incredibly short in my offering of gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise to God.  I get so caught up in life – so many things to do!  So little time to do it in!  Always somewhere to go, something that needs to get done…  That I forget to set aside time and energy to be thankful for the many things that I have received.

Our conversations at the retreat yesterday confirmed for me that this is something that many of us experience.  The whole topic of our retreat was “Come and Find The Quiet Center.”  We discussed and practiced different ways of clearing the chaos and clutter that flood our lives and our time, that occupy our minds and our hearts, that keep us from fully experiencing inner peace and quiet.

Kathleen asked us to think about what, exactly, we mean by quiet center when we say that we are trying to find it.  One of the most compelling reflections that I heard is that the quiet center is a place of gratitude, for all that we are and that all that God pours out upon us.  When we are unable to find the quiet center, we are often unable to recognize our blessings and give thanks.

During the retreat, we spent a total of an hour and 25 minutes in silence as we sought to enter into that often-elusive space known as a “The Quiet Center…”  I want to give an opportunity, right now, for us all to practice that silence together.  But we will do it for just five minutes.

For the next five minutes, I invite you to silently reflect on blessings and gratitude.

QUIET CENTER

[Spend a full 5 minutes in silence]

REFLECTIONS

Now that you have had a little bit of time to pause and reflect, I want to invite you to share some of those reflections.  After each reflection is shared, let us all say in unison, “Lord, we give you praise.”

[Time for Sharing Reflections]

My challenge for each of you is to continue to make it a priority in your spiritual life to recognize the ways that God has blessed you and continues to bless you, and offer gratitude at every opportunity.

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