October 9, 2022
18th Sunday after Pentecost, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling
During the pandemic, one of my strategies for survival, was to keep a gratitude journal. In the context of daily anxiety and change, fear about the future, I decided that listing five things every day that I was thankful for would help me remember God’s goodness and hold me in a reality that was bigger than the daily struggle. I did it more or less consistently from August 2020 until June 2021 days. Today’s gospel text made me dig it out. Some of the entries:
For good people who show up at Zoom coffee hour. (Remember those?)
For sun (that was a December entry)
For time on the tread mill, even though it felt hard today
For orange-spiced yeasted coffee cake
On February 17th, I wrote, “for multiple opportunities to keep my mouth shut.” Must have been an interesting day.
I’m glad that the written record I have of deep pandemic time is list after list of blessings.
David Lose calls this the “double blessing.” Certainly, writing my daily thank you list was important. But by reading it again, even saying it out loud to all of you, extends the blessing–experience on experience. When we say our thanks out loud; when we stop to be grateful; the blessing, which we already have, goes wider and deeper.
Ten lepers were cured. It’s important to note that. Their leprosy was gone, whether they said thank you or not. Nine of them were apparently so thrilled that they rushed to the temple, no doubt imaging the life they could now live—reconnected to their families, able to do meaningful work, no longer the source of revulsion and rejection. Who wouldn’t want to rush into such new life?
But one returned. One stopped to savor the moment, as it were, and Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well.” In the Jesus stories, the word that we hear as “well, can also mean “healed” or “saved.” Your faith has saved you. We hear “saved” and think “going to heaven.” But that’s really not it. Being “saved” really means that you were just returned to being a full human, fully capable of holding God, a container for love.
The gratitude of Number Ten put him in touch with that deeper stream of wellness that flows from the life of God. The deepest and widest blessing is to experience our connection to God. Somehow, being grateful, saying “thank you” is the door that opens the depth experience to us
One of our members always says, “Thank you, Jesus,” when he receives the bread of communion. I love that.
Shawn Achor, in the one of the top 20 TED talks, says that if you write down three things that you’re grateful for every day, and you do it for 21 days in a row, studies show that you become happier because you begin to frame your life differently. You may not have more than you did before. You many not even have your challenges taken away. But you begin to see other streams of grace flowing in your life. And you learn to stand there to evaluate your life.
Take a moment and list three things in your head that you are thankful for. Try to think a bit more than the typical ones that come first, like family, if that’s the case for you, or kids, or the fall weather.
It’s the time of year when we make financial pledges to the church. Often, we dream about all the new work we can do together. We talk of budgets. We point to our growing edges or recount our grace moments. This year’s theme, “Gather Us In” helps us to reconnect with one another. A friend of mine said recently, “We’re all re-churching,” figuring out how to be church together again.
I wonder if the heart of it all isn’t really a kind of thanksgiving, our pledge cards the review of our gratitude journals, when we say, “Thank you, God, for all manner of things.” We take some of our resources, carry them down the aisle, and raise them to God. By opening our hands, we find that our hearts are opened as well.
We’re trying something new this week. In the bulletin is a little green piece of paper. Since so many of us give our gifts online or send them to the church office, the plate often passes empty from row to row. We don’t get to act out in church the kind of generosity we’re practicing in our lives. These papers are a way that you can place something in the plate, a symbol of a life offered back to God. Use them today as your symbol of thanksgiving.
The offering isn’t simply a mechanism to pay our bills. It’s an act of worship. In this generous and then great thanksgiving, the blessing grows. It takes new life. It makes music. It heals hearts. It shows up at bedsides and graves. It faces the challenges in our city and society with a lens of abundance, rather than lack. It reframes success to be about self-giving, generosity, relationship, peace, and conscious contentment.
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time when the ten lepers met him on the road. The one leper that gave thanks was the foretaste of the feast to come. On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, he took bread. He stopped and turned toward his disciples. He gave thanks. When supper was over, when he thought his life was about finished, he took the cup. He gave thanks. This cup is the new covenant, shed for all those who cry out for mercy, for the healing for the nations, for those yearning to be returned to life as a full human, capable of holding God.
He gave thanks, and we have been saved. Thank you, Jesus.
 TED Talk, Shawn Achor, https://21k12blog.net/2012/02/08/best-ted-talk-ever-shawn-achor-on-happiness-and-productivity/.