October 13, 2013 - The Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost

21 Pentecost, Year C
The Rev. R. Bingham Powell
Luke 17:11-19

What are you grateful for? 
Chanterelle Mushroom picture
Your house? 
Public Radio? 
Your Smartphone? 
Food on your table? 
That favorite restaurant where you have lunch very Tuesday? 
The wild mushrooms showing up at the farmer’s market? 
Ice Cream? Chocolate?

What are you grateful for? 

Your spouse or partner? 
Kids? Grandkids? Parents? 
A long-time friend who always provides that listening ear? 
The ability to walk? Run? Bike? Drive? 
A good night's sleep?
Your job? Your pension? Your savings? 
Being cancer free? 
That medication that has given you a new lease on life? 

What is it? What are you grateful for? 

The leper in our Gospel reading today sure knew what he was grateful for. 

He was doubly outcast from his society
–    both a leper and a foreigner, a Samaritan at that.

We might even say triply outcast because the leprosy made him poor, 
and just like today, the poor were often perceived negatively. 

Living among other lepers, 
banding together for survival, 
they begged for their living. 

These ten lepers lived at the margins of society, 
not just socially, 
but physically, 
in the region between Samaria and Galilee
the Gospel makes a point of saying, 
and at the outskirts of the village,
so that they have to catch Jesus as he enters the town, 
and society has told them that they have to keep their distance
when they do encounter him.

All ten were healed by Jesus;
but only one of them, 
the Samaritan leper, 
returned to offer his thanks, 
to offer his gratitude, 
praising God with a loud voice. 

He knew what he was thankful for. 
And he knew whom to thank. 
He knew the source of the healing for which he is grateful:
his creator, 
his maker, 
who loved him,
who healed him, 
who saved him. 
Jesus’ response to him is interesting:
“Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

For Jesus, faith and gratitude are linked. 

Gratitude is one of the most important markers of the life of faith. 

By showing his gratitude,
he has shown Jesus his faith. 

This is a remarkable thing to say, 
because the leper is a Samaritan, after all, 
not a Jew.
He is not have the “right thinking” 
The “right” beliefs.
It is not his beliefs that identify his faith, 
it is not his beliefs that define his faith, 
but his gratitude. 

Gratitude is at the core of faith. 

That is why every week, 
when we gather together to pray,
we celebrate the Eucharist together. 

That word Eucharist is Greek for Thanksgiving. 

The primary form of our communal worship is an act of Thanksgiving:
The Great Thanksgiving. 

We thank God for all that God has done, 
from Creation until the End of Time, 
for being an active presence throughout history, 
and for becoming one of us,
born in a manger, 
living our life of love, pain, joy, and sorrow, 
dying on the Cross, 
and being raised again on the third day. 

All that we are and all that have is a gift from God.

The Samaritan leper knew that, 
and so he returned, 
to offer his gratitude to God. 

What are you grateful for? 

I know some of the things for which I am grateful. 
For the beauty of this fall as the leaves change color. 
For the deliciousness of the bountiful harvest we are receiving. 
For music that lifts my soul. 
For improving health that allows me to run again. 
For family and friends who make my heart glad. 
For you as we travel this journey of faith together. 
For challenges that allow me to grow. 
For sorrows that deepen my compassion for others in pain. 
For God’s spirit that moves through all of these wonderful things of which I am grateful, 
and provides me with comfort, support, encouragement, and strength. 

And most importantly for God’s love, 
which I have seen most fully
in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

What are you grateful for? 

Today, we are kicking off our annual pledge campaign. 

Our theme this year is Be a part of the story - 
a part of the story of St. Mary’s, 
which is a part of the story of Jesus Christ. 

For me, a big part of the story is being grateful. 

Giving back to God and giving to help others in this world
is one way that I can express my gratitude. 

Everything I have, 
and everything I am, 
is a gift from God.

Making a financial pledge to the church – 
the place where I have encountered God in the Eucharist
and in the community, 
the place that has nurtured my faith over the years – 
simply makes sense to me when I reflect on this gratitude. 

Giving is the proper response of my grateful heart. 

The relationship between gratitude and giving isn’t one way, though. 

I give because I am thankful, 
and I am thankful because I give. 

I started giving in gratitude, 
but I found my gratitude grew the more I gave. 

The practice of giving generously
(and it is a practice, 
intentionally taken on, 
not an after thought)
has taught me how much I already have, 
just how much I have to be thankful for,
how much God has given me, 
and how much I have to give back
God has given to me abundantly, 
so I can give abundantly in return. 

And rather than make me more fearful that I will not have enough, 
the more I have given, 
the more my anxieties have been relieved
as I realized just how much I have. 

So, back to our original question: 
What are you grateful for? 

And to expand the question a bit, 
to whom are your grateful? 

Are you grateful to God, 
Who made you and loves you? 
Who made the whole world and everything within it? 
The source of all that you are and all that you have?

If so,
as you turn in your pledge cards for the coming year,
I encourage you to think about what you are grateful for, 
And offer your pledge in thanksgiving to God, 
For the abundance that God has given you,
as I will be doing. 

And if you’re not a part of St. Mary’s, 
If you are visiting today, 
Or you are so new
that you don’t really feel a part of the St. Mary’s story yet. 
I encourage you to find a some way
to give somewhere
in thanksgiving to God. 

To give in thanksgiving, 
and to grow in thanksgiving as you give. 

To join the cleansed, healed, Samaritan leper, 
by returning to Jesus, praising God, and saying thank you. Amen.