Why does it say that? Maybe they went to church every week. Maybe they even gave to appeals for money for good causes now and then. They did not offer a listening ear, nor a handout, nor a call to their representative to advocate for a positive change in the system that put them there in the first place.
I definitely have a love-hate relationship with this parable. That part I love. How many times have I put my selfish needs above those of my needy neighbor? The current tax debate is a perfect example. On the one hand, cutting taxes would keep more money in the pockets of hardworking Americans, but on the other, paying more in taxes would allow the government to help with some of the larger expenses Americans face, like healthcare, disaster relief, excellent education, and retirement.
Or, to bring it closer to home, if Jesus Christ were living in Webster, barely making ends meet, and. This problem of not knowing the best way to help causes me a fair amount of despair, and can quickly move me toward hopelessness: How can I help, being just one person, when the problem is so overwhelming, and how do I even know where is the best place to spend my limited time and energy? The point is simply this: Every word we say, every action we do, every decision we make, we must ask ourselves: If we could do this, could really take this question to heart — how would it change our relationships?
How would it change our world? There was once an old stone monastery tucked away in the middle of a picturesque forest.
For many years people would make the significant detour required to seek out this monastery. The peaceful spirit of the place was healing for the soul. In recent years however fewer and fewer people were making their way to the monastery.
The monks had grown jealous and petty in their relationships with one another, and the animosity was felt by those who visited.
The Abbot of the monastery was distressed by what was happening, and poured out his heart to his good friend, Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a wise old Jewish rabbi. Jeremiah said that he had received a vision, an important vision, and the vision was this: The Abbot was flabbergasted. One among his own was the Messiah! Who could it be? He raced back to the monastery and shared his exciting news with his fellow monks. Was t his one the Messiah? From that day on the mood in the monastery changed.
Joseph and Ivan started talking again, neither wanting to be guilty of slighting the Messiah. The monks began serving each other, looking out for opportunities to assist, seeking healing and forgiveness where offence had been given.
As one traveler, then another, found their way to the monastery, word soon spread about the remarkable spirit of the place. People once again took the journey to the monastery and found themselves renewed and transformed.
All because those m onks knew the Messiah was among them. What I do know is this: The Messiah is among us here at Bethlehem. The Messiah is among those addicted to opioids. The Messiah is among millions of women who have been sexually assaulted.
The Messiah is among animal species on the brink of extinction, and among those who fight for their survival. The Messiah is among the refugees fleeing violence and poverty in their homeland. The Messiah is among those who cannot afford healthcare that is necessary to stay alive. The Messiah is among those who suffer from mental illness, and cannot find help. Where else might we see the Messiah, and how might we serve him there? Let us pray… Lord Christ, you have told us that when we love and serve the least of these among us, we love and serve you.
Help us to see your face among those who are in need, and help us in all of our words, actions, and decisions, to consider how they will affect the least of these. Many of you know that I have a 2-year-old at home named Grace.
Life with a 2-year-old certainly has its ups and downs. One minute she is the sweetest thing that makes us giggle with delight that she is ours, and the next minute she is throwing a tantrum over what seems like nothing. We usually let her choose her own outfit for better or worse! When it got to chosing socks, however, this kid could not decide. I was getting impatient, so I just grabbed some and put them on her… and the screaming began. Then the stripping — off came the offending socks.
This stage is not for the faint of heart! With a 2-year-old, instances like this pretty quickly become a funny story. Unfortunately, sometimes exchanges like this feel all to similar to some of the vitriolic conversations happening in our country about… name-your-issue. People shouting over each other, seeking validation only from their echo chambers, no one actually listening to what the other side has to offer.
Heck, sometimes it feels a little like this even talking to people in our own families. It can be really hard to talk to people — even people we love — about issues about which we disagree. Is there any way to find restoration?
I was thinking about this as I read our Gospel text this week — the famous story of the healing of the 10 lepers, in which all are healed but only one turns back to give thanks to God.
And I will get to that, I promise. But first, I want to notice with you a few details of the story that will make that gratitude piece even more meaningful. And that may seem small, but it can make a whole lot of difference. And so, lepers were generally kept excluded from. They were outcast, excluded from the community. On the flip side, to be healed of their leprosy meant not only healing of the physical disease, but also it presented the possibility of being able to go back home to their families, to be restored once again to their community.
It was the gift of health, yes, but also of restored life. As we anticipate gathering with family for holidays, we also anticipate navigating potentially difficult family dynamics, whether having to do with internal conflicts, past hurt, or even some of those same hot political issues.
So how can we work toward healing the divide, whatever division it is that weighs most heavily on our hearts? Perhaps one step toward an answer comes in the final detail I want to point out.
Luke makes a point of telling us this little detail about the thankful leper: Not so for first century Jews! To them, Samaritans were not nice, helpful or caring. They were dirty foreigners whose race, religion, and beliefs were all wrong, and they had no business being involved in the lives of the more godly, obedient, and upstanding Jews.
He was a drug dealer, an abuser, a liar, a supporter of things that you feel are a menace to society…. Luke makes a point of telling us that this one, who was openly thankful, putting his own agenda and desires on hold in order to express gratitude to Jesus, was indeed a despised member of society. And the result is to make us consider the possibility that lessons in faith, in love, in joy, in bridging the divide, might in fact come from the one from whom we least expect it, even, from someone or something we hate.
But in this case, the lesson, the gift, the grace, though the deliverer may not have been our first choice, is one fairly simple to latch onto and maybe even to apply, and that lesson is: You see, I said I would get back there! But sometimes going beyond that can be more difficult, especially when we are in a tough place in life, or when we are grieving a difficult loss. Those feelings should not be disregarded — they, too, are important to acknowledge and to articulate.
But what if even or especially in this instances, we really worked at finding something for which we are grateful? You can help me, by looking with me at my opening story, about Grace and her socks. That morning, I was about to lose it. I felt pretty far away from grateful. Having heard my story — what in that situation could I be grateful for? That we have the means to provide her with multiple pairs of socks to choose from.
That my daughter is already exercising an independence that will serve her well as she grows. That because she had gotten me up an hour earlier than usual, I had time to deal with a tantrum. That she has developed the dexterity to take off her own shirt — a new skill! Probably what I am most grateful for in exchanges like this is that every day, Grace teaches me something about human nature: She teaches me patience. She teaches me the value of a deep breath. She is always teaching me something.
And I am grateful. Suddenly, the Great Socks Crisis of , when considered through the lens of gratitude, has become an experience that brings joy to my heart. Suddenly this encounter that made me want to throw up my hands and walk out which I admit, I did do , has made me love my little girl even more fiercely than I did before.
But it takes practice.More...