Year C — The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Commentary for November 3, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings
Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast

The Lec Lab Live podcast for this week will discuss preaching for All Saints Day. The commentary below is for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. Also, for an All Saints Day sermon, see Dr. Chilton’s offering below.

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
We previously commented on this text here

Psalm 119:137-144
There are some things you can count on: what goes up, must come down; you win some, you lose some; and, one of my favorites, if you are working on your car and drop a tool, it will always hit the pavement and roll directly under the middle of the car (Murphy’s Law of Auto Mechanics.)

Actually, there are exceptions to all of the above “rules” — there is very little that is certain in our world. But, the psalmist asserts that one of the constants we can count on is the righteousness of the Lord. Everlasting, true, and well-tried are the descriptors he chooses. 

Yep, all of those apply. That is why we can find delight even in the midst of trouble and anguish.

Isaiah 1:10-18
God gets pretty weary — one might even use the technical theological term “pissed off” — at our worship arising from insincere hearts and empty practices.

God’s evaluation of true worship? “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” 

Then come back to the sanctuary and sing me some songs, okay?

Psalm 32:1-7
There’s a reason that confession is good for the soul — and the body, too. 

What we hold on the inside tends to affect us in every way — mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Unconfessed sin is akin to an infection, or an abscess. It has got to be treated and drained.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
I think that some of Paul’s best work, particularly his prayers, come in the opening sections of the epistles. Here, as he speaks with Silas and Timothy, he gives a heartfelt testimony of the Thessalonians’ love and faith and offers a prayer that should resound through all of our congregations: 

“…we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Luke 19:1-10
While much of our time in church can — if we let it — become an exercise in missing the point, the story of the “wee little man” named Zacchaeus instructs us in what happens when we manage to GET the point.

Zach internalized the message of Jesus to such a point that he opened his pockets and gave 50% of his wealth to the poor, and used a great deal of the rest of it (his wealth) to repay what he had wrongfully taken from his tax-collection clients (with considerable interest!)

Jesus says this is salvation in motion — that Zacchaeus got it as he got real about what following Christ would — and should — cost him. That’s an awful lot to learn from the man who has heretofore dwelt mostly in the realm of a cute children’s Sunday School song!
Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
NOTE: Today’s sermon is for All Saints Day, which technically is to be observed on November 1; however, many pastors and parishes will observe it on the first Sunday in November.
Texts: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
I have, in my thirty-six years as a pastor, lost count of the number of funerals I have conducted, probably in the range of three or four hundred. And at every one I have assured the family of the promise of the resurrection. I have preached it, I have counseled it, I have prayed it, I have believed it.Ten years ago, when my Daddy died, I walked up to the coffin and saw him there, waxy and still, cold and formally attired in white shirt, tie and dark suit; and I stood there a moment and all I could think was “I sure hope it’s true, this resurrection business I’ve been preaching all these years. I really hope it’s true.” I have found there many times in the last few years, looking down at the body of a beloved aunt or uncle, cousin or in-law, friend or parishioner.
And every time I find myself hoping it is true. There is a vast difference when the “dear departed” is one of your own, connected with you through blood or marriage or other deep commitments in ways that mean “until death do us part” to a degree the law can’t impose or disentangle.What I knew in the moments that I stood before those coffins, knew for  hard, cold fact, was that my Daddy was dead, my wife’s mother was dead, my cousin, her uncle were certifiably dead. Their bodies had ceased functioning. They were encased in the ground to slowly, oh so slowly, rot away, and I will never see them again. These are the facts; the hard, cold, empirical facts.The hope of the Gospel is that God has somehow reversed that, temporarily with Lazarus, permanently with Jesus, and, so the story goes, permanently with all of us.

And I believe that promise. I don’t know what it means, I don’t know how it works. I can’t hold forth on what a resurrection body will be made of, or what the streets of heaven are paved with, but I believe the promise that beyond this life, there is another existence with God, and that the way to that existence has been cleared for us by Christ.

In the meantime, the life of faith is lived in that space, that emotional space, before the coffin of a loved one. We carry on between what we know and what we hope for; poised between the cold hard facts of death and the bright shining promise of eternal life. We live out our trust in God in the ambiguous territory between what can be proven and what can be believed. All the most important words; freedom, love, compassion, sacrifice, are no more provable than resurrection. In a purely rational world, none of them makes any sense. 

But we carry on, each day creating a faithful balance between what we know and what we hope. We know people die, we hope in the Resurrection; we know people sin, we hope for redemption; we know people get sick, we hope for healing; we know the world teeters on the edge of destruction, we hope for a new heaven and a new earth. 

Amen.

Bonus Sermon for Reformation Sunday (October 27, 2013)

Reformation Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013
Jeremiah 31:31-34,
Psalm 46,
Romans 3:19-28, 
John 8:31-36

By the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

“. . . and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8: 32.
Every year when I read those words in preparation to preaching on Reformation Sunday, I think of another time when Jesus had a conversation about truth.  Over in Chapter 18 of John we read about Jesus standing on trial before Pilate.  Jesus says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
And like every wily politician before and since, Pilate shrugs his shoulders and tilts his head and sneers, “What is truth?”
The world has recently been regaled with the spectacle of America’s politicians looking at the same set of basic facts and publicly proclaiming loudly and insistently that these facts indicate wildly divergent versions of the “truth.”  Pilate had a point, the truth is hard to come by in public discourse, particularly discourse which has as its aim persuading others to see the world as you do and to do as you wish.
 
A few years ago I was in a bookstore in Nashville and happened upon two books I had never seen before. I bought them both on the spot. One was “The Optimist’s Guide to History;” the other was “The Pessimist’s Guide to History.”   While I was writing the check, the clerk looked at me quizzically and said, “I’ve sold a lot of these books, but nobody’s ever bought both of them at the same time.” I said, “Well, I guess most people are either optimists or pessimists, but I’m just a preacher looking for sermon illustrations.” 

As I thought more about it, I realized that it was likely that optimists often bought the optimist’s version and that pessimists frequently bought the pessimist’s version; which means that most of them weren’t really looking for the truth – they were looking for evidence to bolster their already established opinions.

So, it’s not just politicians who are like that; most of us are, most of the time. Most of what we refer to as “the truth” or “just the facts” are actually those tidbits of data which bolster our world view. Good enough. There’s really nothing all that wrong with that; our human-ness hardly allows us to do anything else.

The problem comes when we treat the truth of the Gospel like a factoid to be marshalled in defense of our various, time-limited, fallible and self-interested, political and social positions. 

The truth spoken of here is not a factoid, a data byte; it is the living, active, moving Word of God, which breaks through both our optimism and our pessimism and rearranges our head and our heart in ways we never imagined. It is a truth that smashes all our preconceptions and ideas and reconstructs them on the basis of God’s love and God’s grace.

That kind of God, bringing that kind of truth, is not at all interested in whether or not we are optimists or pessimists, doesn’t really care about our take on the world’s various political and religious differences, could care less about whether we pray standing up, sitting down or somewhere in between, etc. etc. That kind of God doesn’t want to be a “part of our spirituality,” an expression of our deeper yearnings.  That kind of God is nor after either our spare time or our spare change; the eternal God of truth wants us.

Christian writer and preacher Henry R. Rust writes of visiting a tiny Christian congregation in a village in Kenya. It met in the open air beneath a thatched roof. When it came time for the offering; a round, flat basket was passed up and down the rows of benches as people placed coins and bills in it.

The basket came to a young woman with two small children. She took the basket and laid it on the ground in front of her. She took off her sandals and then stood in the basket, head bowed, praying silently for a full minute, then she stepped out of the basket and passed it on.

On this Reformation Sunday, in the midst of celebrating Martin Luther, and singing A Mighty Fortress, of remembering and honoring our ancestors (in fact or in faith or in both) for bringing the faith to the place where we are; let us take time to hear anew the true word of God who is  Christ our Lord; the way, the truth and the life.  And then, let us bow our heads and move our lives fully into the circle of Christ’s love; giving ourselves completely to the freedom of serving God and serving the world in the name of Jesus.

Amen

Year C — The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Commentary for October 27, 2013

by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s texts
Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast

Joel 2:23-32
I love re-reading Joel every time I begin to doubt God’s good intentions for our lives. Even after a time of judgment or tragedy, God is more than capable of “restoring the years” that have been consumed by the plagues of sickness, hardship, ill will, or sinful choices.

While there is a “great and terrible” day coming, the hope God offers is for salvation in the name of the Lord. In other words, get thee to Mount Zion — and with haste!


Psalm 65

Have you ever stopped to consider what it is that you owe to God?

The psalmist says that “praise is due” to the Lord. I don’t often enter the sanctuary with the idea of a bill or check for services rendered in my hand…but, maybe I should consider it!


Sirach 35:12-17

The wisdom of Sirach offers us a startling reminder and perspective: our giving is only to be done in proportion to the ways that God has given to us. If God has not blessed you in the past week (or month, or year, etc.) then you needn’t bother with an offering of thanks. 

I wonder how many of us would actually make that deal? As my pastor said WIWAK* — “You just can’t outgive God, boys and girls!”


* When I Was a Kid (thanks to Len Sweet)


Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22

Confession is good for the soul. 

At least, that’s what they say. Jeremiah would agree, I think, and our gospel lesson for today certainly has something to say about it. 


Psalm 84:1-7

My soul faints for the courts of the Lord.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a “fainting spell” — but the word causes me to think of times in my life when I have wanted something so desperately that I did not think I would be able to stand the intensity of the desire and feelings surrounding it.


Maybe that’s the descriptor of our desire for coming to worship God? 


2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Who wouldn’t like to be able to utter Paul’s summary upon arriving at the pearly gates? (so to speak…)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” We will do so, according to v. 17, as the Lord gives us strength and as we rely upon that strength. Neither Paul nor Daniel were rescued from the mouths of lions because they were good, strong guys in and of themselves.


Luke 18:9-14
Okay, quick: who would you rather be in this story? A Pharisee or a tax-collector? Doesn’t sound like much of a choice right off the bat, does it?

Another interesting question for our congregations as we ponder this text: at the beginning of the story, which of these gentlemen would you choose as a candidate for membership in your church: the guy who everybody sneered at when he walked into the room, or the fellow who came to church every week and gave his (rather large) tithe check regularly?

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
(see Bonus Sermon for Reformation Sunday here)
Most of us are familiar with the “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23 and the “valley of the dry bones” in Ezekiel, but really; how many of us remembered there was a “valley of Baca” in the Bible.  When I read that I thought, “What? The valley of what?”  I’m embarrassed to say I took an entire semester’s class on the Psalms and I didn’t remember anything about a valley of Baca.  Sorry Dr. Murphy, wherever you are.
So, I looked it up. It’s one of those semi-obscure Hebrew words that the commentators say things like, it could mean, or it might refer to, etc. etc.  But the consensus, based on the context in the Psalm, is that it means “the valley of the weeper.”
What an image!  The valley of the weeper.  A place of sadness and spiritual dryness.  A place where one feels the pain of being separate from others, from one’s better self, from God.  A place to weep bitter tears of contrition and remorse.
It is in the valley of the weeper that we find the tax collector in today’s Gospel lesson.  We can’t know why he is standing apart from the rest of the community, why he beats his chest, why he hangs his head and chokes out a sobbing confession of sinfulness and sorrow.  But he does. 
Part of it is that to be a tax collector at that time and that place was to make one’s money cheating other people, or at least strong arming them.  A tax collector was at the bottom of the Roman Empire’s exploitation scheme.  The Emperor made financial demands of the Governors and kings under him; they in turn made financial demands of regional officials, and so it went down the line to the tax collector, who was given a certain amount he had to collect and turn in.  anything he got above that was his salary.  It was a system that led inevitably to corruption and resentment.
So perhaps he had woken up to the evil he was a part of.  Not just the evil of his own personal actions in coercing money from others, but the evil of participating in a system of governance that abused and oppressed his own people.
And perhaps he was confessing the greed and avarice that had pulled him further and further away from his God and his own true self as a person of faith and morality.  So perhaps he woke up one day with the realization of what had who he had become – or perhaps it was a gradual realization over time and he had been struggling with this confession for a while, working up his nerve to come into this holy place before a holy God and admit his sorrow and his sorry-ness. And so he stands apart, in his own private little valley of Baca, valley of the weeper, and sobs out his misery and remorse.
And standing across the room, as far from him as he can get, there is a man in the first century equivalent of a Brooks Brothers suit.  He looks over his designer glasses at the tax collector, he straightens his silk tie and pulls his cuff-linked collars straight, rolls his eyes and throws his head back as he looks up to heaven and begins to speak,
 “O God, thank you for making me such a fine fellow, with such a fine character and such a fine life.  I especially thank you that I am not like one of the little, insignificant people; especially not like that awful tax collector over there. Your Humble Servant, George M. Farasee, Esquire.”  Or something like that.
Luke ends the story there telling us that the tax collector went to his home “justified.”  That is, he went home right with God and at peace with himself. He came through the valley of Baca, of weeping and sorrow and found there springs of God’s mercy and pools of God’s love.  He found his soul washed and cleansed and made right and ready to go forward.
On the other hand, the Pharisee walked away empty handed.  Or more correctly, empty-hearted.
His prayer left no room for God to come in; it was full of self, indeed the Pharisee pretty much addressed it to himself.
The question for us today is; “Who am I in this story?”  and I suspect that most of us, most of the time, are a little bit of both.  As Dr. Luther said, we’re all saint and sinner at the same time. 
All of us have a little bit of Pharisee in us.  We want to think that we are good people doing good things.  And most of the time we are.  And all of us look with contempt on some other people sometimes.  It’s a part of being human.  As one of my country preacher mentors told me once, “Son, if people was perfect they wouldn’t need you or Jesus.”
And all of us have taken a trip or two through the valley of Baca, the place of sorrow and remorse.  All of us have those dark places and dark times we’d rather not admit to or revisit. 
And yet we must; because we are pilgrims and the only highway to Zion goes that way.  The only route to Christ leads by the foot of the cross, his and ours.
And so we come to this place on this day to pray, to open up our hearts and lives to the one who already knows all there is to know about us.  So we stand, not apart but together; and first bow our heads and then lift our hearts, knowing that our God loves us with a perfect love and sends us out to find other pilgrims to lead through the valley of Baca to the spring of God’s grace.
Amen and amen.

Year C — The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24)

Commentary for October 20, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s texts
Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast

Jeremiah 31:27-34
I, for one, will be happy on the day that preachers are out of a job. 

Verse 34 is a great promise: “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

To borrow a line from the old gospel song, “now ain’t-a that good news?”

Psalm 119:97-104
The law of the Lord is not odious; it is not harsh or bitter. Rather, as it is intended for our good, as a guide to all that is sweet and helpful for living in the way that God intends — it is a blessing, not a curse.

Those of us who could use a little more understanding and insight — and who couldn’t? — will be helped by it.

Genesis 32:22-31
Ah, Jacob wrestling with God! We previously commented on this text during Year A; you can find that reference here.

Today, I can’t help but wonder about the effort that Jacob expended in struggling with the Lord. It’s awfully hard to resist God — and, even though Jacob “overcame” in his wrestling match, it cost him. He limped for the rest of his life!

This passage could say a lot about the ways each of us is struggling with our faith and/or our obedience. Ya’ think?

Psalm 121
A classic psalm text! As above, we have also previously commented on this passage on the Lectionary Lab (see here.)

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
It is easy to read the first phrase of 3:16 and stop: “All scripture is inspired by God….” But, it only makes sense to keep on and see exactly why and to what purposes scripture has been inspired by God! 

We are all — preachers, pew sitters, sinners and saints — formed and equipped by the word for the good works that God has designed us for.

Luke 18:1-8
God is not really like an unjust judge at all; rather, God is desirous of helping us long before we have exhausted our pleas in God’s court.

Jesus’ question, from the pen of Luke, is a provocative way to frame this story. What will “the Son of Man” find on earth when he comes? Indeed!

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

A friend of mine sent me this in an email a few weeks ago: Sign seen posted in the cafeteria of a Florida hospital:  NOTICE: Due to the current budget cutbacks, the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off  until further notice.

Today’s Gospel lessons Jesus reminds us to hang on to our faith, even when the light of God’s love grows dim or even seems to have gone out.  It is a story about not giving up in the face of difficult times. It is a story about continuing to pray and trust God, even when you’re getting no results; even when it feels like and looks like the windows of heaven are shut up tight and God either cannot or will not hear your plea. The story uses courtrooms and bad judges and poor widows to teach us lessons about life and God and our need to pray without ceasing. 

A judge in Israel was a powerful, powerful figure. Biblical Scholar Raymond Bailey says: “In Israel, the judge was the final arbiter. There was no jury, no court of appeal. . . The judge in the parable is a law unto himself, who has no sense of accountability to persons or God. He shirked his duty by not bothering to even hear the case . . . . . The widow throughout the Bible . . .  was a vulnerable victim . . . a symbol of helplessness. (The Lectionary Commentary, The Gospels, p. 429)

Jesus has set for us a scene in which a poor, helpless person has nowhere else to turn but to the judge. And the judge appears not to care about her, appears to be unwilling to help. She has no money to bribe him, no power to coerce him, no important relatives to influence him; what is she to do?

Well; she has two choices:  One – she can quit, give up, crawl away in despair and frustration. 

Or two – she can continue to beat upon his door, accost him in the streets, stand in his yard with a sign demanding justice, tell his neighbors and friends about his unwillingness to help; in short she can refuse to go away.

And it worked: verse 5 ” . . .because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”  In other words, he gives her what she wants so she’ll go away.

As I said, this story isn’t really about courtrooms and judges and poor widows; it’s about persistence in prayer and faithfulness in living. God does not “grant us justice,” to get rid of us, or because we disturb the divine repose, or to avoid embarrassment. God is not like the unfair judge in that way.

Jesus’ point is that God works on a different time schedule than most of us and it is easy for us to get discouraged if the “day of the Lord,” that the Hebrew Scriptures promise seems never to come.

We do our best to live a good life, giving to God and neighbor generously, praying and attending worship and paying attention to our religious duties.

We are faithful to our wives or husbands or significant others; our family members can rely on us to be there for them in time of need; we raise our children with gentleness, discipline and generosity; we pursue our work with both diligence and honesty;  and yet, and yet; sometimes things fall apart; sometimes the roof caves in, sometimes the light goes out; sometimes we find ourselves trapped in the darkness of our souls, with no sign of hope; with no glimmer of grace; with not even a whisper of love.

And when that happens; how do we hang on? How do we keep faith through the dark night of the soul? How do we keep on praying when things keep getting worse instead of better? How do we find the will to get up and go out each day trusting God to see us through when nothing we do seems to work? How do we keep from having “itching ears,” looking here and there and everywhere for solutions to our problems; or, if not solutions, then others to blame for our difficulties? What does it take for us to stay the course in difficult and perilous times?

Dr. Herb Edwards was professor of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School.  He used to say, “The trouble with the church is that it has to faith in the resurrection.”  He usually went on to say something like this – Without faith in the resurrection, we will do all we can to avoid death; either as individuals or as institutions.  But if we embrace the power of God to bring us back from the dead, we can out our fear of death behind us and live bold and courageous lives, trusting God and risking all for the sake of the Gospel.

Amen and amen.

Year C — The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 23)

Commentary for October 13, 2013
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Click here for today’s readings
Click HERE for the Lectionary Lab Live podcast

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
“Bloom where you are planted,” comes to mind here (if you are given to over-worn summations of life experience, that is….)

Seriously, though, these words of the prophet are written on the subway walls of Babylon and encourage the people to know that God has not forsaken them. God’s purposes can be lived out in good times, and in bad; in Jerusalem, and in exile. 

They are also a good reminder to us that praying for the welfare of the cities (and nations) where we live is a privilege and a duty.

Psalm 66:1-12
We’ve been through fire and water, but God has brought us to a spacious place — room to breathe! That’s quite a bit to be thankful for on most days.

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Ah, Naaman, Naaman…the man who just really wanted to be able to “do something” in order to be healed. To humble himself and simply accept the gracious gift of God was the most difficult challenge he had ever faced. 

Psalm 111
Thanking God with one’s whole heart is certainly the biblical ideal and a worthy goal. However, notice that wholeheartedness begins with a step of awe and respect — it must have a beginning (which here is denoted as “fear.”)

One rarely gets the whole of any experience in the first go-around. It takes practice and persistence.

2 Timothy 2:8-15
What a great one-line summation of the gospel! “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David.” 

How often do we muddle and add to the simplicity that is the good news of Jesus?

Luke 17:11-19
“Where are the nine?” The question still haunts me from my days in the Sunday School. I dare not be an ungrateful sinner who fails to realize what a great gift God has given me in my salvation!

Of course, there’s more to this story than a child’s simple realization — but that’s a pretty good message, too. I commend to you Dr. Chilton’s treatment in the sermon below, and the discussion on this week’s Lectionary Lab Live podcast, as further food for thought. 

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

Peanuts cartoon:  Lucy is doing her math homework.  She is working on a word problem.  She is stuck, so she asks Charlie Brown for help.  “I’ll be eternally grateful,” she promises.  Charlie Brown says “Fair enough. I’ve never had anyone be eternally grateful before.  Just subtract four from ten to get how many apples the farmer had left.”
Lucy says, “That’s it.  That’s all there is to it.  I have to be eternally grateful for that!?  I can’t be eternally grateful for this; it was too easy.”  With his usual blank look, Charlie Brown says, “Well, do whatever you think is fair.”  Lucy thinks a minute, then says, “Thanks Bro!”
Charlie Brown goes out into the yard where he runs into Linus, who says, “What you been doing, Charlie Brown?”  Charlie replies, “I’ve been helping Lucy with her homework.”  Linus wonders, “Din she appreciate it?”  Charlie – “At greatly reduced prices.”  Charlie was gracious – Lucy was not grateful
In the Gospel lesson, we hear another story of grace and gratitude. After receiving the benefit of an outstanding moment of grace, nine out of ten fail to be grateful.  As Jesus says, all ten received were helped graciously, all ten were healed freely.  There were so strings attached, no payment asked, no act of obedience required.  They asked for mercy and Jesus granted it.
And they all believed Jesus; it was not a matter of a lack of faith.  They all set out immediately, before their healing “kicked in,” to show themselves to the priest. And when they were healed, when the promise was fulfilled, nine continued on their way.  Only one turned back to thank Jesus and praise God.
An interesting surprise is that the one who returned was a Samaritan, one who was permanently outside the community of faith rather than one seeking to be readmitted.  Perhaps the Samaritan was doubly grateful for his healing because he did not expect it; while the others somehow believed that they deserved it – could it be that their lack of gratitude grew out of a sense of entitlement?
Sometimes you still occasionally here or read of someone being referred to as being “well-bred.”  This, of course, had nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with the way you were brought up.  The old southern term for it is being “raised right.”  Being raised right in the South included learning to express profuse “thank yous” at every appropriate moment.
It is interesting to note that the one person in the story who we are certain was not “well-bred,” had not been “raised right,” was the one who came back to say thank you to Jesus.
As we ponder this story, it is important that we move beyond questions of disease and healing, to a consideration of God’s many acts of grace to us and appropriate ways for us to express our gratitude to God for all this goodness that fills our lives.
Too often, too many of us, myself included, are like the man with a broken arm I heard a comedian talk about.  He was at the Post Office and saw a man with his arm in a sling.  The comic listened as the man asked for help from a Post Office employee.  The postman obliged, writing the man’s note of the card, filling in the address, putting on a stamp.  Finally, he handed it back and asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”  The man with the broken arm looked the card over a minute and then said, “Well, you could write a line apologizing for the bad handwriting.”
Are we like that, like the demanding man at the P.O.; like the nine who took their healing and ran without a second look or a second thought?  I know that all too often in my life I take God’s grace to me for granted and fail to whisper a prayer of thanksgiving; let alone go out my way to help others in response to Christ going out of his way to help me.
God’s call to us today is to take a good look at our lives and find a way to express our gratitude to God in words and acts of prayer and thanksgiving, words and acts shared not only with God but everyone in our lives.

Amen and Amen.