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. 

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.

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