Thursday 5 October 2023

Beginning Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving! The one day we set aside to remind ourselves of something we should be every day: thankful.

It’s not always easy to feel thankful, it isn’t. But it’s an essential practice, one that’s empowering and inspiring, especially when things are challenging.

The Gospel of Luke records a story of Jesus meeting ten lepers on the road. I know, that doesn’t sound like a thanksgiving story at first, but stay with me. They keep their distance, of course, but the call out to Jesus and say “have mercy on us.” Not “heal us” or “feed us” or even “help us,” they ask for mercy. Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priests at the temple.

That might not sound helpful to us, but, in Jesus’ day, if you were sick or disabled or something bad happened to you, they believed it was God punishing you for doing something wrong. If you got better or your circumstances changed, you had to be absolved and approved by the priests before you could be restored to society.

I don’t know if the lepers believed they’d be healed, but they follow Jesus’ instructions and, on the way there, they’re healed - “made clean.” One of them turns back and, while the others continue on to the Temple, he returns to Jesus and says something we don’t hear being said to Jesus very often: he says thank you. He praises God and thanks Jesus. In hie response, Jesus points out to his followers that only one returned and that this one was a Samaritan, a foreigner and traditionally an enemy of Jews. His last words to the man are “go your way, your faith has made you well.”

Sure, it’s a classic story of Jesus doing what Jesus does, offering healing to the sick and restoration to the marginalized, regardless of their culture or nationality. But there’s something bigger here, something more rare. There’s thankfulness.

There’s no indication that the other nine, who followed instructions and went to the temple, weren’t appreciative. We don’t hear about them again, but I like to think they did as they were told, the priests went “wow, good for you, you’re restored” and they lived happily ever after, grateful for the second chance.

But physically healed and restored to society are not enough for the tenth man. He needs to acknowledge the gift of new life given to him. Yes, it’s possible he was raised by very well-mannered parents who taught him to always say please and thank you, just to be polite. But it’s not politeness that’s happening here, it’s understanding, it’s gratitude being offered to the source of his new life and it’s faith that it wasn’t just the word of Jesus that was the source, but God, the very Spirit of Life. That’s why it’s this moment when Jesus says “go your way, your faith has made you well.”

This man has been more than physically healed. His gratitude for this gift connects to his heart, mind and spirit, too. His whole way of living has been changed. When Jesus says “go your way, your faith has made you well,” he means the hope of this man’s future: wholeness. Beginning in gratitude offers an opportunity to embrace each moment, appreciate it for what it is and live it fully and wholly.

Every moment is an opportunity to begin.