Gratitude is an Embodied Attitude
All ten were healed but only one was made whole. The one who stopped, noticed, turned and gave thanks.
Is that it? Is that all we need to do, say, "thank you?" Yes, and.
It's not often we encounter a surprised Jesus. Jesus is usually questioning, challenging, teaching or healing. Rarely is he surprised. But here he is surprised by the foreigner, the Samaritan, the one no one would expect to give thanks and praise to God, through Jesus.
And we're to be surprised too because Samaritans always surprise us in the gospels!
Jesus' disciples are surprised and a little taken aback that Jesus would dare to speak with a Samaritan woman at a well.
The young lawyer was definitely surprised by Jesus' answer to the question each of us asks ourselves everyday - who is my neighbor? I don't like everyone so who can I avoid, basically. Jesus answers the question with the famous Good Samaritan parable. The story of a man broken and bloodied, abandoned on the side of a road. The two "religious" people walk by, even though they know, and we know what God would have them do - reach out in love.
The one who does reach out is the Samaritan who gives his all, his time, his precious oil, his donkey, his money, his compassion. So yes, Samaritan's surprise us in the gospels except the name doesn't mean much to us now. Certainly not what it meant to the hearers of that time. So if Jesus is telling the people of his time and place that Samaritan lives matter, then, our job is to figure out who the "Samaritans" are in our time? Who do we neglect? Who do we cast aside? Where do we need to surprise our self and reach out?
That's one part of this gospel. But a preacher needs to be careful.This well-known story could devolve into an "attitude of gratitude" platitude! It's not about just saying, "thank you" its an embodied response to God at work in our lives that we notice and integrate. That's what makes us whole.
St. Bonaventure, who came on the heels of St. Francis, said that loving God, loving other people, is SO BIG requires such an open heart that we have to practice. We have to see and notice the small signs of God's love and start there.*
Was that Samaritan already good at seeing? Had he practiced seeing God's love all around him before. Or, was that healing a lightening bolt moment. Gratitude at something miraculous. Sometimes that's how our eyes are opened. Sometimes its the opposite. We realize our gratitude only after something or some one has been lost.
We say an interesting phrase in our Eucharistic Prayer. As we conclude and pray that God partner with us in making this bread and wine holy we ask God to accept "our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving." I've also found that odd. Why is it a sacrifice? Is it hard sometimes to come together and give thanks?
Yes! A parishioner once reminded me, "Arianne, I come to church because I need help. I need strength. I need to hear about love and good news when I'm not feeling it or the world seems to be falling apart." No matter what is going on in our lives, when we gather for worship we give thanks and praise. We show up, even when our heart isn't in it.
Which is what we do in all real and loving relationships.- with spouses, partners, friends, people who we rely on and who rely on us - we show up. Because often the action, the act of showing up is what moves our heart to where we want it to be.
When I show up to lead our Day School Chapel, my heart isn't always in it. I'm tired. It takes two hours, I have lots of things I could be doing. But then the kids run in and say, "Rev, Arianne can we learn about this? Tell us about that?" It's their joy and wonder and eagerness that moves me. You can't spend two hours with engaged 4-5 year old kids and not have your heart be moved.
When we have our baptism today we are making the invisible sacrament, visible. We are enacting "being made clean." The question for all of us is will we participate in being made whole? Will we live and try to live into the promises we make so we participate with God in our moving towards wholeness?
Gratitude is relational - gratitude is action oriented - thanks to God is something we embody, not just something we say. Surprise! We are partners in this life-changing endeavor towards our health and wholeness. The practices are available and all around us and we can begin with the simplest act opening our eyes to see the hand of God in our lives, and respond with a heartfelt, "Thank you." Amen.
*From "The Great Chain of Being" chapter in The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr (2018)