Sermon on Gratitude

Sermon on Gratitude October 18, 2016


(click above to listen along)

Recently one of you apologetically mentioned that you have been meaning to write me a thank-you note about something and given our Gospel reading about the grateful healed leper, I began thinking about what a terrible thank-you note writer I am. Not for lack of trying on my mom’s part, I mean, Peggy did everything she could. And like every other kid who received a 10 dollar bill in their birthday card, I was expected to send a thank you note to Grandma. But it never felt like a natural outpouring of my gratitude. It felt like an obligation. An obligation I sometimes would gladly give $10 to get out of.

The very worst thank you note writing experience was when our church gave us a baby shower when I was pregnant with Harper and we received a large hardback book – some kind of comprehensive guide to Christian parenting published by Focus on the Family. 12 different people pitched in for this. Which, you guessed it…meant 12 thank you notes for a Focus on the Family book. Just shoot me.

So yeah, sometimes in my life I’ve not been so grateful that it naturally flowed into a note to someone.

But our text for today has Jesus healing 10 lepers, and one returning to give thanks to Jesus and praise to God.

And as I thought about the Samaritan Leper who was healed and turned back to Jesus, fell before him praising God, I began to realize that perhaps I do not praise God as I should. I realized this week how much easier it is for me to talk about lamenting and complaining to God and how much trickier it feels to cut loose and praise God.

Maybe It is so much easier for me to long for what I want, or to resent what I have lost than it is for me to be thankful for what I have. I’m not alone. I mean when is the last time you heard a newscaster say “not a single school shooting in America this week. Praise God. Or the Nation is grateful this week for all the successful cancer treatments that have left thousands of people with a clean bill of health”

In the past I’ve written page upon page about what praise is and is not. How praise isn’t stroking God’s ego sycophantically telling God how awesome God is – as though God has low self-esteem and created us for just this. How thankfulness is not an obligation like the thank-you note to Grandma – but is an act of freedom that doubles the joy of what was received.

I mean, seriously, I have pages and pages of exposition on praise and thanksgiving… and not a single word of actual praise and thanksgiving and that felt telling to me somehow.

So rather than talk about praise, I thought that what I really needed this week on a spiritual level was to actually praise God. But you are totally free to listen in.

11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.

That you God, are one who comes to us in the regions between – the uncategorizable spaces that we often fail to notice or we fear altogether. I thank you. Thank you for those who bring water in the desert danger of border-crossing. Thank you for the space between my wakefulness and sleep where what I foolishly call intuition kicks in. Thank you for the fluidity of gender and sexuality. Thank you for being in the spaces we try to pretend are not there.

12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

For your approachability in Jesus, O God, I give you thanks. Thank you for coming to us in the most vulnerable way possible – contained in human skin. Thank you for revealing your glory in the person of Jesus Christ whom lepers approach and who in turn we are also able to approach. For your earthy approachability to all us broken winged birds I give you thanks

14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

That you see me O God, I give you thanks. Thank you for seeing that which I try to hide. Thank you for seeing my hurt and my fear. Thank you for seeing my heart and my humor. Thank you for seeing that I am stronger than I think and that I am also not nearly as strong as I think. Thank you for seeing this broken-ass world in all it’s beauty and most especially thank you for seeing all of these things and then responding in nothing but completely mad love.

Thank you for how you have sent these your people to show themselves to me and how in doing so – in sending the gay kids and babies and retired folks and suburban moms and depressives and corporate guys and social workers and students that you have shown yourself to me. Knowing as you do that without the stories, gifts and scars of each of these people I would never see enough of you.

“And as they went, they were made clean”

That healing happens in community O God, I praise you. Thank you for the way in which you bring your people together to be healed. For the ways in which we harm each other instead, forgive us.

15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.

Praise you God for the ones who turn back. Thank you for all the people in my life who speak your name, who bravely point to you as the source and ground of all goodness, who dare to recognize you as God and who remind me that you are real and you are actively redeeming me and them and all of creation.

16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Blessed be God the Word who came to his own and his own received him not for in this way, God glorifies the stranger. Thank you for revealing yourself in the foreigner. I think. I mean, it’s one of the less comfortable aspects of following you, Jesus. But thank you for loving me too much to allow me to stay comfortable for too long. Thank you for interrupting my pride and refusing to leave me as is. It’s uncomfortable as hell but in your faithfulness you always lead me through death to more abundant life.

19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

For all the things that having been healed and gone on my way that I fail to even notice I give you thanks today. Thank you for this community. Thank you for the chaos of children. Thank you for that tree up my block that suddenly this week became 8 different colors all at once as though it was showing off. Thank you for friends who text me back. Thank you for coffee. Thank you for the person in my 12 step meeting who reminded me that when in doubt just say Thy Will be Done because I totally had forgotten about that part. Thank you for clean water and safe roads and electricity and garbage pick-up. Thank you for 24 years of sobriety. Thank you for the babies. Thank you for never leaving me. Thank you for that breakfast I got to share with my teenager this week. Thank you for all the people who manage to make me laugh. Thank you for creating us to sing. Thank you for the fact that the band who played at the event I spoke at wasn’t a praise band at all but played old-timey Gospel tunes, which I love. Thank you for a congregation who doesn’t mind if I occasionally re-cycle a sermon[1]. Thank you for Terrell’s engagement and the baby growing inside Tracy that already feels like it belongs to us and that Meghan paid off her student loans and for Jennifer who teaches our children about you, and for Jamie’s voice and for Valarie’s ability to cook us delicious food. Thank you for the laughter and the tears that reliably happen when we gather. Thank you for this new home for us. Thank you for the way in which I am fed at your table of grace and for allowing me to speak behind it and tell the story of the night you were betrayed. Thank you for this bread and wine, which we are about to receive. And for every other gift which I am too blind to see that totally comes from you -Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. A men.

[1] Like this one. Thank you God that I have an understanding congregation. I always just admit to them when once a year or so I have to recycle because I just don’t have it in me to write a brand new sermon. They reassure me that they don’t listen very closely anyhow so its not like it will sound familiar 🙂

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