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Luke 17:11-19
Thanksgiving Sunday

 Thanksgiving Sunday, October 9, 2022         Luke 17:11-19   Grace and peace to you from God our Creator, Jesus our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Agitator.  Amen   Yesterday I had a meeting in Abbotsford and as I was driving there at around 9 in the morning I couldn’t believe the amount of traffic on the highway heading east.  When I arrived at my meeting someone mentioned the fact that it was the Thanksgiving Weekend.  So THAT explained why there was so much traffic.  People were heading off visit with family and friends or getting in one more weekend of camping, or some would say Glamping, in before the rain and the snow come. Well, hopefully the rain and the snow will be coming soon.   Thanksgiving can be a loaded cultural icon. The turkey, the stuffing, the potatoes and gravy, some people even have VEGETABLES, the pumpkin and/or apple pies. An idyllic image of whole families coming together to feast over the bounty of the harvest year.  And isn’t this all very lovely? Except it masks darker truths, truths not talked about or hidden away.   What if the harvest that is hoped for doesn’t come? What if you are a parent who says Thanksgiving is at the shelter this year? Or perhaps there will be no Thanksgiving dinner? Does this mean that parent is reaping what he or she has sown, that this family is getting what they deserve?   The writer of the letter to the church in Philippi tells the readers to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice.” What does this mean for those who are in the circumstances that I just described? I don’t believe that we are being told that we have to just “put on a happy face” in all circumstances. It does mean that we can rejoice that in whatever circumstances we might find ourselves we know that God is present with us and for that we can give thanks. And out of this love from God comes our love for our neighbors, a rendering of great generosity. As the writer of our second reading says, “ 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard… and the God of peace will be with you.   Let’s begin to explore and reflect on what we have received to give and why we give what we give. As this giving comes from our hearts, as it is given to glorify God, then the natural outcome of this will be genuine love for others. The emotions we will experience will feel right and good. And it is this sense of righteousness and goodness that will lead us and multiply our efforts; it will be a rendering that sustains us through each harvest year with thankful hearts.   Our gospel passage today has Jesus on a journey toward Jerusalem while passing through a region between Samaria and Galilee. And along the way, Jesus encounters 10 lepers. Lepers were social outcasts, cursed, unclean; they had to live in colonies outside of towns and could not approach people except from a distance, and all the while yelling, “Unclean. Unclean.” So that the people who were approaching would have opportunity to get out of the way of the lepers. So, knowing they can’t approach Jesus, they start to shout at him, “Lord, have mercy on us,” just as we sang this morning in the Kyrie – Lord, have mercy, Kyrie Eleison.  Somehow these 10 lepers had heard about this master who can miraculously heal people. And if this Jesus can heal others, then just maybe he can heal them.   Jesus pauses, looks at the 10 lepers, asks them no questions – doesn’t berate them for who they are or how their lives suddenly fell apart when they became ill with leprosy. Jesus simply tells them to go show themselves to the priest – because for the lepers, only priests can deem them clean and able to return to society.   The lepers don’t question Jesus, or maybe they looked at each other in awe, hope and fear, but they do as he says. They head toward the priests who can change their social status, provide them with entry back into the lives they once knew.   One, though, stops in his tracks because he has just looked down at his hands and his feet, and he realizes that his whole body has been healed, he has been made clean!!. That’s when he turns around and shouts praises to God as loudly as he can; he is stunned and grateful. This leper makes his way back as quickly as he can to Jesus, and he falls at Jesus’ feet and he says, “Thank you!”   This is where Luke introduces Jesus’ own stunned reaction – a Samaritan and a foreigner has recognized Jesus as the point of entry into God’s Kingdom. Luke is reminding us that Jesus came to bring salvation to everyone, Jew and gentile, known and foreigner – there is no “other” in God’s Kingdom.   How often is it a stranger or guest who points out what we have stopped seeing? How often is it a stranger who helps us remember why we participate in our ministries, or a newcomer who hears with new ears, sees with new eyes, and heartily says, “Thank you”?    How often is it a stranger who reminds us of what it is we have to be thankful for? And isn’t that the crux of why we come together once a year, on this day of Thanksgiving? To remember and be reminded of God’s grace and bounty in our lives?   It is easy to become like the other nine lepers. They go and do as Jesus says, and they are healed, too. But do we, like them, follow Jesus’ instructions solely from a sense of duty or compulsion? Or is it because we are able to look down at our hands and feet and see something miraculous? See that we are and have always been the Body of Christ? And can we, too, fall on our knees before Christ and praise God for the bounty we receive and are about to receive at Christ’s table?   And so, let us give thanks to God and rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, Rejoice.