Thanksgiving Eve

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable unto you O Lord our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Our Gospel for this evening puts us face to face with God’s grace reaching beyond any boundaries or limits we try to put on God. It is here in these words from Luke that we encounter Jesus on his way between two places, two countrysides, and there he meets 10 lepers. People who were pushed to the outside, people who legally had to walk on the other side of the road and stay away from their loved ones and their communities. Leprosy was the most feared disease, because ritually you were kept away from family and friends, there was no cure, no hope, no promise that you would ever be able to once again be in the presence or community with your loved ones. Sometimes, those with leprosy even had to yell out “unclean” so that people approaching them knew not to go near them. And this time instead of yelling out ‘unclean” to Jesus, as they say him approach they instead asked for healing. They didn’t just ask, they cried out for Jesus, the Master, to have mercy on them.
And Jesus does not ask them for their stories or their medical records or even where they are from. Instead Jesus tells them to go and see the priest. There was no more conversation about whether or not what they really needed or what they really meant. Instead, Jesus tells them to just go and show themselves to the ones who could claim them as clean and officially welcome them back into their communities, into their families, and into the religious rites and ceremonies. And so they did, they went on their way to see the priest. To be made well and clean. To be given more than just mercy, but also life again. Their lives were changed. As they were on their way, one of the 10 turned around.
But that one leper was more than just one of the nameless lepers who was healed. He was a Samaritan. Not only was he on the outside because of his leprosy, but because of where he was from. As a Samaritan he was socially unacceptable. As a Samaritan he was different. And to be a Samaritan with leprosy? Well no one would ever want to be in relationship or near him. He was too much on the outside. The priests that the other nine went to show themselves to would not have welcomed or offered grace and cleansing to the Samaritan. So even though he was healed, he was on his own. It didn’t matter whether or not he was healed from this leprosy. He would still never be fully welcomed anywhere other than Samaria. So he turns around and returns to Jesus.
In the midst of having no other options, this leper returns to the one who first showed him mercy and grace. The one who reached beyond all barriers to change his life. In that moment he laid himself out in front of Christ and proclaimed loudly his praise and thanksgiving. His offering of love and joy for what just occurred. Jesus then asked what happens to the other nine. They weren’t required to come back and give thanks, there was no condition on what they had to in order to be healed. But they did as they were told they went to the priest and who could blame them. After being on the outside for so long in their life, how could they not be excited to get back to their life, to their families, and to their loved ones? Can any of us really blame them? No. After all, in our lives and in our world we hardly ever take a moment to pause and give thanks. To take a few moments out of our day in thanksgiving for the blessings we have received. To pause and give thanks to God for the many blessings we have in our lives, even those we cannot see and often overlook.
So we go on our way maybe not even realizing the blessings we have that are all around us. Or assuming that we deserve what we have because of what we have done and who we are. And then there are the times where we fail to give thanks because we see what we have as all about us and not about God. But this Scripture calls us back to the one to whom we should always give thanks and praise. Calling us back to God who has abundantly blessed us and to not look at the death and fear of our lives and in our world, but to rather see the life that Christ welcomes us into. See the abundance that God provides for us. It does not look the same for everyone, but we are loved beyond measure. We are forgiven and made free so that sin, death, and the devil no longer have control over us. So this evening and this year as you prepare to give thanks, make sure you give thanks to the one who has truly given you everything. The one who has met you where you are and has welcomed you into life and life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Katie has served St. Paul Hametown since July 2012. She is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg with a Masters of Divinity and a concentration in Theology and Public Life. She is married with three children.

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