October 9, 2016

Sermon by The Reverend Christian J. Baron, 21st Sunday After Pentecost, Year C, Luke 17: 11-19

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.”
Good morning.
My confession for the day… You should know… that I am terrified about saying the word “prostrate” during church…

I spent the last couple of days in Kalamazoo with other clergy and laypeople from the diocese. Our Diocese along with the Diocese of Eastern Michigan have a joint program called DCDI. I stands for Diocesan Congregational Development Institute.
This initiative intends to equip the parishes of the diocese in their various missions as well as provide a diocesan structure to encourage and support the parishes.
Jodi and I have been involved for about a year and have found it very helpful. I tell you this, partially, because the Diocese expects St. Philip’s to send a leadership team to the Institute in 2017.
Many parishes have found it extremely helpful.
And… I am thankful for it… I truly am.
Friends and family have watched our children so that i can go and spend this time thinking about the future… thinking about St. Philip’s… Thinking about the Universal church.
Without those people, this time it was my inlaws, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
I am thankful that our parish reimburses me for the mileage to drive to Kalamazoo.
Those funds come from to the individual who has pledged or placed funds in the offering plate… or to those who have left us the money in the endowment… who cared so much about the future of this place and of this community that they would invest, from places of deep gratitude, into the general budget so we can set aside time to think about the future of St. Philip’s, and the mission & ministry God will continue to nurture…and invite us to contemplate what the spirit is saying for us next.
I am truly thankful.
I am thankful for the diocese… Thankful for a diocese who has their finger on the pulse of Western Michigan and small churches…
A diocese who cares about young priests and their formation…
A diocese that cares deeply about their mission outposts… who cares about St. Philip’s.
A diocese who cares about the future of Benzie County and the Episcopal presence of our local parish and the people that are connected to it.
I am thankful for Toyota… for making my car… well, Jodi’s car. I’m thankful that it gets good gas mileage. That it kept me safe and got me there on time.
At the retreat center that we gathered at, there are maybe 200 Catholic nuns who live there.
Most of them are very old.
It is a beautiful picture of community when they gather for dinner.
I try to imagine what it is like when nobody is around… the laughing… the friendship…
But what I am thankful for is the nursing home style food.
It isn’t my favorite… but i am thankful for it… By the way, they have a sign on their coffee that says, “we have tracked where your coffee came from. Enjoy it without guilt.”
I’m also thankful for that 🙂
I hope you know that these feelings of thanks, are not instinctual.
In fact, I wasn’t thankful for these things until I sat down to try to list the things I am thankful for.
Many days, I go without going through this examination. I don’t remember to stop and list the things I am thankful for.
And, the more intentional I am about this practice…this thanks… the more I am really thankful for it.
And honestly, when I don’t take a deep breath and reflect on the things from my day that have been grace… I dwell on the negative…
I have to be thankful on purpose.
Maybe you have also found this to be true for you.
I think Jesus has found it to be true.
At least in today’s gospel that seems to be true. It seems pretty cut and dry doesn’t it? It’s easy to cast judgment on the 9 isn’t it, but I get it.
These 10 men had different lives before their leprosy… Did they have spouses? Children? Other dependants? Where did they live? Who did they love? Who loved them? What jobs did they have? Who did they help and provide for?
They had other lives.
And Jesus, didn’t heal them expecting glory.
He wasn’t running for mayor of Jerusalem.
He didn’t make the healing conditional…
So what’s the big deal?
I’ll bet that over their lifetimes, they were thankful.
I’ll bet they told stories to their loved ones about the man who healed them.
Maybe some didn’t… maybe some were scoundrels.
Maybe some were criminals, but even those folks must have felt something…
They must have felt some debt of gratitude…Right?
But the 1.
The 1 who went out of his way to come back…
He was more than happy that he was healed. He was more than shocked…. He was more than excited…. He was thankful and he was grateful…
And Jesus, the son of God… doesn’t need this gratitude… he doesn’t need to be thanked.
He isn’t that fragile. He gives freely…. Out of abundance, no at rings attached.
But he recognizes, that gratitude… that thankfulness is an intentional act of submission and of humility.
He recognizes, that it is good and healthy to live a life of thanks.
Did you know that the word “Eucharist” means Thanksgiving?
This gospel text is a very specific example of human flourishing.
We gather once a week (sometimes more) to intentionally give God thanks and praise.
Pretty cool huh?
The Great Thanksgiving is a time for you and for me to give… God… the creator of all… thanks for life…
And God doesn’t need it.
God is not dependant on us for praise.
God doesn’t survive or exist based on our praise…
Instead, this liturgy, which has existed for hundreds and hundreds of years, has been created and maintained because it is a natural and intentional expression of our thanks.
The scripture… the prayers… the confession… the absolution… the peace… the offertory… the Eucharistic prayer… the blessing and the sending…
it is all intentional… it is all on purpose… it is all…
Thanks… giving.
I remember a story about my best friend Sasha.
We were neighbors and best friends until I moved away in 4th grade.
His family did not practice Christianity.
This concerned me a great deal as a child.
But when I would eat at their house, instead of a traditional prayer, like I was used to, they spent time offering thanks for various things.
I like that.
In fact, my family is going to start that practice in our home.
I wonder if you’d like to join us. Whether you’re alone, or have others to eat with… spend just a few minutes to name a couple of things that you are grateful for.
Maybe don’t just remember them in your mind… maybe remember them out loud. With your lips. Or by writing them down in a notebook.
Be intentional. Return from your day and your life to the giver of good things… and verbalize the things that have been good.
The things that you noticed.
We’ll check in with you to see how it’s going.
I wonder how it will change you… how it will change me… how it will change us…
“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.”