“Faith and Thankfulness”
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Luke 17:11-19
This is a special weekend for many families. For a lot of people, this is their last chance to spend some time with family members who may not be close by. Students try and make the trip home. Family who live away take advantage of the long weekend to make treks back to their home towns. For many, this is the last time they will see one another before Christmas, and after that, probably not until next Easter weekend, or maybe even next summer.
This was a special weekend for Sean and Susan Blanco. You don’t know who they are. Susan’s maiden name is Chapman. She is the daughter of Jennifer MacKinnon, whom some of you know, and joins us here at church whenever she can. Sean and Susan were married Friday evening at the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish. I had the pleasure of presiding over their special ceremony.
This was a unique wedding that I don’t think I will ever encounter again. Not only was it a beautiful time to have an outdoor wedding, overlooking the colours, the mountains and the sea, it’s just too bad we were rained out and had to move inside. This couple is a unique coming together of nationalities. Susan’s father is from Nova Scotia, her mother is from Scotland. Sean’s mother is from Florida, his father is from Cuba. Today Sean and Susan begin to make their way back to their current home, Hong Kong. Standing with the couple as part of the wedding party were representatives from Manitoba, Alberta, California and New York. We had a lot of the world covered in that ceremony. All coming together to celebrate two people making promises to each other in the presence of family, friends, and God.
There were no outsiders, no one who felt alone or alienated. There was room for everyone, from all places.
Isn’t that just how God works?
Isn’t that what was shown to us in our readings this morning? The example of Namaan coming to see God’s humble servant Elisha? Elisha didn’t turn him away, in fact he invited him to come to hear about how God could heal his afflictions.
Isn’t that what Jesus did when he met the ten lepers in the village? He healed all them, even the hated foreigner.
Are these stories of thanksgiving? In a way they are, yes. Those who were healed showed thanks for what God has done for them. What we didn’t read after Namaan was healed was that he tried to offer great riches to Elisha, but Elisha turned him down because it was not he, but God who healed this man from a different land. So instead Namaan asked to take a load of soil from the land of the Israelites so he could worship on the same ground the chosen people of God worshipped on. He was that thankful for being healed.
Also with the one leper. The Samaritan, the only one, that we know of, who was a foreigner in the group of ten. He was the only one who, once he realized he was healed as he followed Jesus’ instructions to go to the priests, he was the one who turned back and thanked Jesus at his feet.
The others, we aren’t entirely sure what they did. If they were all Jews, then they would have likely continued onto the priests because then they could be declared clean and allowed back into normal society, as was the law of the time.
Is that the end of the stories? God heals, so we give thanks?
What about the actions of those who were healed?
What would the lepers have been thinking as they first walked away from Jesus. They are outcasts because of their disease, and Jesus tells them to go and see the priests. For what? They would be well aware they are unclean, the wouldn’t need the priests to verify it. So what was it about, “Go show yourselves to the priests” that compelled them to go and risk more humiliation?
What was it about Namaan, who was told by a servant to go take a bath that compelled him to strip down and wade into the muddy Jordan river?
These are men who were desperate. For the 10 they were separated from friends and family. They had lost all they had because of their disease. They were not allowed to enter villages, and were forced to beg for scraps and mercy from those who passed by on the road. They wanted their lives back.
For Namaan, he had a skin disease. A disease, that if it spread would cause him to lose all he had. He would be stripped of his rank in the army, he would be cast out and he too would lose all his wealth and family. He wanted to save himself from what he saw coming in his future.
Desperate men who heard faint words of hope. Nothing else was working, so why not at least try what they are being asked to do?
Do they fully understand what has happened to them? I would say no. They have only had a very brief encounter, but an encounter which changed their lives forever.
And yes, they gave thanks because their lives had been saved.
By the laws of the day, these men had no right to even ask for help. They were unclean. Some of them were foreigners.
The Jews in those days were instructed to not have any interaction with people like that under any circumstances.
But we know Jesus stepped beyond those boundaries. He did it over and over again. And when he did sit and talk with widows, foreigners, the sick, prostitutes,
sinners, he always offered them words of comfort and hope.
He let them know they were not alone in their suffering, that it was not right that they were excluded by societal norms. He let them know they were all in this together, because it is God’s wish that His people are cared for and that they know Him.
Changes happen all around us. Things which were once the norm are now finding themselves part of a wider story. Things we once took for granted as the way things are and should always be are now just one of many options.
Take Thanksgiving dinner for instance. How many of you are enjoying a turkey this weekend? Will it be fresh from the oven? Or will you be deep frying it? Yes, deep fried turkey is taking off in North America. You take your turkey and drop it into a barrel of hot oil and a few minutes later you have a fully cooked turkey. Apparently it’s quite good, but I have yet to have the opportunity to try it.
Or, are any of you having turducken this weekend? Anyone? Any idea what this might be? Is it some sort of new green, environmentally friendly, vegetarian dish? No. Turducken is a chicken, stuffing is optional, stuffed into a duck. But that’s not all. You then take the duck and stuff it into a turkey, throw it in the over, and wait. Again, apparently quite tasty, but I have yet to encounter such a beast.
New things are coming at us all the time. Some are good, some are bad. Many of these things will cause us to think differently about how we view our lives and our encounters with others.
Just like Jesus likes to do.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is more than just being thankful. Being a disciple brings you into a new relationship with God and with those you share all aspects of your life with. Including those we exclude.
So let us follow the example of Jesus Christ. Let us be one who offers hope to those who are different, those who struggle, those who are hungry and poor. Imagine if somehow someone would have been there for those teens who have made the news in the last month. Standing up for them, showing them love, then maybe they wouldn’t have taken their lives because of their sexual orientation.
This weekend we often like to celebrate the blessings of our life, and many of us may thank God for these blessings. But what of those who are not as blessed as we are? What if, through our faith, we are able to offer hope and to help others be thankful too? Not just this weekend, but each and every day, all year long.
That’s what Jesus has shown us, and invites us to do.