Based on Jeremiah 29:1, 4–7 & Luke 17: 11-19
The year 587 B.C.E. (although they didn’t call it that at the time) was a painful memory to those who survived the siege of Jerusalem and now find themselves living in exile in Babylon. But at least they are living – they are the lucky ones, the ones who survived the slaughter in Jerusalem. They survived because of their abilities, their usefulness to the conquering nation. Someone brings to them a letter; it’s from that crazy prophet Jeremiah, the one who for years told them this would all come about.
The letter from Jeremiah doesn’t say, “See, I told you so.” He says, `This is where you are now – bloom where you’re planted. Set down roots, plant crops, intermarry and grow strong. Seek the welfare of the place you are in.’
No matter what has happened in life to put us where we are, be it for a short while or a long time, we can work with where we are and what we have. As Rev. Nancy Steves said at the Western Women’s Conference a couple weeks ago, “We can mourn what’s lost, or we can mine what’s left.” We need to acknowledge and mourn losses, but if we orient our life to mourning, we won’t grow from our losses, we won’t search for the treasure in the rubble, and we won’t see the wonder and beauty all around us.
We wondered together this morning about the story of the ten lepers who encountered Jesus. Rev. Nancy Steves talked about this story in her address on Friday night at the Western Women’s Conference. She said, we love to beat up on the other nine, and yet they were probably just doing what Jesus told them to do! So why didn’t this leper?
Could it be, Nancy wondered, that he had an orientation to gratitude? Maybe gratitude was the way he lived his life. Maybe he realized he’d already won the biggest lottery simply by being born. Do you realize that on the day we were conceived, we each `won’ the race? Out of 500 million the one little sperm that held half of our DNA teamed up with the other half cradled in the ovum of our mother’s womb, and Voila! Here we are! Is that not miracle enough for celebration?
Meanwhile the advertising world spends $400 billion (annually) to tell us that we are not good enough – we don’t look good enough, we don’t smell good enough, we don’t own enough, or we don’t own the right kind of enough. My friends, we are not good consumer potential if we are grateful; if we realize that we have enough and are good enough.
I’m sure you have heard it said that a pessimist sees the glass as half empty, and an optimist sees the glass as half full. This I learned from Nancy, and will try to live in my life – the grateful heart sees the glass as twice as big as it needs to be. What makes you grateful for being alive in this time?
Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation:
Holy One, source of wisdom and compassion, there are some `blessings’ that are a little harder to appreciate. We confess that we don’t get along easily with everyone, and that pain and suffering are not our idea of a good time. Yet, we believe that you love us in joy and in suffering, and that our failures and our losses are most often the path to spiritual growth and so we dare to give thanks for those `other’ things:
For troubles that shape and sharpen our patience, for doubts that let faith moments shine, and for confusions that keep our ives from being rigid.
For sufferings that help us share another’s grief, for conflict that helps us understand another point of view.
For sorrows that join our hands to hope and for loneliness that leads us to community and back to you, the Heart of Compassion.
For weakness that allows another to offer their strength, for moments of vulnerability that waken us and shake us.
Holy One, these are gifts we may not be grateful for as they unfold. But we pray that with time, we may grow to be your wounded healers, your broken and mended forgiven and forgiving people. In the name of the Christ, we pray. Amen. (adapted by JA, from Touch Holiness)
Prayers of the People:
And…Loving God, we come to you in thanksgiving, knowing that all we are and all we have are gifts from you. In faith and love, help us to do your will. We offer to you this day all the facets of our lives. May we grow in wisdom and insight that we may understand your will for us. We offer gifts of time, talent and possessions to you, to reflect our love for you and our neighbour. Help us to reach out to others as you, our God, reach out to us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Commissioning: Today is a day to be counter-culture! Today is a day to say: I have enough and I am enough. Today is a day to remember blessings, and savour gratitude. Today is a day to know that there is no thanks without giving. Today is a day to begin again to live a life of gratitude and wonder. Thanks be to God. Amen