by admin on November 4, 2012

Reflections for 3 November 2012
Luke 17:11-19 (20-21)

Remember last week I woke up at 4 a.m. and within a minute I had managed to ravage my contentment with a 1,000 thoughts running wild. This week is better…I actually didn’t wake up from snoozing until the alarm. How did your week go? More specifically—your 1,000 thoughts running wild? Did anyone consider the birds and flowers this past week? Recall—they don’t do much yet God takes care of them.

Today let’s consider Contentment from the perspective of growing in gratitude thanking and praising God. Ernest Kurtz in his The Spirituality of Imperfection relates this story.

A blind man was begging in a city park. Someone approached and asked him whether people were giving generously. The blind man shook near empty tin. His visitor said to him, “Let me write something on your card.” The blind man agreed. That evening the visitor returned. “Well, how were things today?” The blind man showed him a tin full of money and asked, “What on earth did you write on that card?” “Oh, said the other, “I merely wrote ‘today is a beautiful day, and I am blind.’”

Contentment–it has something to do with seeing, realizing, knowing that every precious moment is a gift.

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and getting closer by the day. Luke is beginning to draw together the various themes that he presented in this lengthy travel narrative (9:51-19:27) Jumping to 18:8 we hear the prevailing question that serves as the thread. Think of this as an ongoing blog with posting every day. The question: will the son of man find faith when he returns? There are a number of interesting and arresting examples of such found faith: a leper, Samaritan, foreigners, widow, tax collector, infants and little children. All of these are drawn from the margins of acceptable society. (What’s that say about Jesus? About his Kingdom of God project?)

In this reading Jesus crosses over several borders and boundaries. On the way to Jerusalem he crosses through the territory on the border between Samaria and Galilee—he is still up north.

In a non-descript village ten lepers approach but not too closely. They are obeying the health and religious sanctions of the day. From their distance they call out for Jesus’ attention. He seems not to have even paused in his travel but instead issues the common directive: go to the priests and get a clean bill of health.

Here at once the watchers of this event, and Luke’s audience hearing the story would recollect the ancient story of the prophet Elisha and his non-direct leprosy healing of the Syrian general Naaman. (2 Kings 5:1-19). BTW, this exact story gets Jesus into lots of trouble in his hometown when he relates it with a different twist. That twist is exactly what happens here.

The ten guys are healed as they go. Vs. 15 One of them realizes this massive life shift from being unclean to being healed with all the potential that goes with it. He returns and in an act of outright worship combines thankfulness with humility. Interestingly Luke says that when this man saw/realized/knew that he was healed and his life changed, gave thanks.

One would expect a true believer to do this, but Luke is the surprise story teller. No……someone from the most ungrateful religious cult—the Samaritans—is the one who does exactly what God’s real people were supposed to do. Go enjoy your life, Jesus says. Your trust has saved you. Which means, your belief has brought you to the place of action and that thinking and action will take you into a while new existence.

Verses 14 and 15 tie this story together when he (Jesus) saw them he told them to go…..When the healed man saw that this was so he returned. Luke developed the concept of “seeing” in terms of both sight and insight. Gratitude is tied up with that.

• Seeing—Vision. Gratitude is simply a response to a gift. Gratitude is not a feeling. It is an on-going vision of thankfulness that recognizes gifts constantly being received. Feelings are fleeting, but gratitude is a mindset. It is a way of seeing and thinking that is rooted in a remembrance of being without that gift. The German language makes this simply clear in its words denken and danken.

• Attitude of Gratitude. Sounds trite and overly worked. An attitude is a posture, a way of positioning, and a staging stance. Our postures allow us to do certain things and set the launch pad for action. Standing, sitting, lying down are all attitudes; they make something possible.

Stand = walk, see farther, run. Sit = relax, lean back, read. Lay down= sleep, doze. When I am grateful I have the posture of being open to receive.

The Samaritan man illustrated many postures and attitudes. Moving away from solitary confinement and real distance to moving toward Jesus,– to realizing the significance of his encounter with Christ– to the movement back,– to the falling on his face in worship,– to his getting up and walking through a new door of life yet to be. These are the postures of being saved. These are the postures of gratitude which opens the eyes to the fact of God’s presence in Jesus is alive and working to create a new vision and attitude for us.

• A third So What? The man returns to Jesus in order to thank him. The Greek euvcaristw/n auvtw/|\ Gratitude and giving thanks is intimately connected with worship. The man fell to his face and worshipped Jesus. A new vision of contentment was born. We get the work Eucharist from this Greek word. In the early church Eucharist was the central feature of Christian worship. Communion is about growing in the posture of gratitude for who we are at the moment and the saving action of God upon us towards the future of our own healing.

Jesus did not allow this man to linger; he didn’t even invite this guy to join him. He simply told him to get going on his way—his life: his journey and pilgrimage, knowing all the while that it was God who made it possible and the man’s own posturing with eyes wide open. The man was simply sent into his own mission into the world. Eucharist is about being sent on a mission for the life of the world.

When one grows in gratitude the geography of faith gets a while lot bigger than just little old me.

Before this leper was healed what did you think he said, talked about, thought about? We know that his proper discourse was really warning for people to stay away and a blatant reminder every day that he was less than human. Psychologist Martin Seligman has made his major intellectual contribution to the field of psychology with what he calls “positive psychology.” His writings include Flourish, Learned Optimism, Authentic happiness. He writes about what he calls “explanatory style.” It’s a way to get at the way we talk about our lives. Think of your explanatory style.

After the man is healed, what do you think was the shift in his explanatory style? What we have here in today’s reading is a new universe of discourse. We don’t know exactly what the man said to Jesus but he said something. Talking about thankfulness and gratitude actually grows it.

Seeing things differently opens us to new categories of experience, which opens the door to understanding “reality” in new ways. How we speak actually shapes how we think and what we see and that in turn leads to how we experience life. If our words are begrudging and crabby, our brains get wired to see everything from the suspicion that we are victims. From that vantage point we will encounter everything and everyone. How’s that working for ya?

Gratitude and contentment are spiritual realties and influence how we live and shape what we experience.

Jesus told that man: your faith saves you. He is healed and saved. This is salvation that comes through faith and this man has seen that we was healed. He returns to give thanks to God. He is not merely delighted to be free from leprosy. He is also aware that his healing is a blessing from God. He has discerned the saving reign and presence of God and is now sent out with the blessing of Jesus. Isn’t that what we do here at Nova? Discern the saving power of God and be sent out with the blessing of Jesus?

Contentment as gratitude is not about being self-soothed into complacency; it is about recognizing the gift of life and our calling for the life of the word.

Finally, these words of Elie Wiesel which he spoke when he received the Nobel Peace Prize:

No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately……And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Next Week: God’s Voice Within: Discovering God’s Will.

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