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A Thanksgiving Sermon from Connecticut on Luke 17:11-18, “Turn around and come back”

23November2012

Now on his way to Jerusalem,  Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God  in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”   (Luke 17:11-18)

Grace and peace to you on this day from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

I imagine we are all a little more thankful this year. There is something to having gone through these storms this year. The storms of life to be sure – but literally in our case, Sandy and a Nor’easter that help us appreciate things a little bit more.

During the storms our new music director at St. Michael’s Jonathan Yaeger made mention a few times and I quote him here: “The three things we take for granted are: electricity, good health, and the freedom of expression; until they are taken away.”

Between the Nor’easter, Sandy, Irene, last year’s Oct storm – we have been through a lot. Enough to justifiably complain.

I heard that in Fairfield, the town had to start putting police officers in front of the work crews – people so fed up after power loss, they started throwing rocks at them. Imagine Long Island or New Jersey! My guess is that many of us – Are a little more thankful this year; while at the same time seeing the ongoing needs around us and trying to respond. We have the opportunity to turn around and come back. Just like the one Jesus healed.

Jesus gave to these ten the gift of power, good health, and freedom of expression. Because of their disease – they were sent away, ostracized, excluded, and forgotten. Who knew when their lights would come back on? Probably never. They were left to die: Exiled from the community as to not spread their disease.

They cried out. Not throwing rocks, but among the pleading for mercy with what looked like no one answering them; same as those we continue to see on TV – with no response and complete desperation. Yet unlike the power companies and the limits of government intervention – Jesus approaches them. In our time of need, and our time of gratitude, Jesus approaches us too.

Jesus sends them back into the community: Clean, healed, alive, powered up, free. That is what thankfulness is – powered up, free, cleaned, healed, & alive. I suppose we cannot really blame the 9 who run away and never come back. They are given a gift – a free gift with no strings attached.  When Jesus heals them he is not expecting them to return – he sent them off.

I suppose we are like them most of the time. We are not ungrateful for the opportunities before us, the food on our table, the electricity that governs our lives, the freedom to express ourselves; but we often don’t take time to pause and really think about it. We are busy people, living busy and productive lives, and so when Jesus sends us – clean, free and forgiven, we do what we are told. We GO!

But this year gives us pause – to think on it a little more. To be like this one who returns to Jesus in praise and thanksgiving, to hear the words Jesus gives – that faith has made us well.

So, like many of you – we lost power during Sandy – for six days. We connected with people in ways we have mostly forgot how to do in our world – not through texting, email, Facebook or even calling on the phone – but knocking on doors, going outside, reaching out in a real human way.

We enjoyed the hospitality of others as much as we reached out to others – and recapturing that connection between people has given our community – to turn around and come back to Jesus more grateful than usual; to know that faith makes us well.

So during the Nor’easter – we buckled down for another storm. We were getting ready to make some dinner – the power went out again.  Now that we’ve been through this enough times  we felt like we knew exactly what to do; we gathered on the couch; we pulled out the ice cream from the freezer and snacks and cheese without cooking; we pulled out the blankets, lit the candles, engaged in conversation; we even were reading aloud a book. We were together – our faith had made us well. We knew it.

Then the lights came on – we scattered. We flew to the nearest outlets to plug in; check messages, play a game; reconnect online; like it had never happened.  A few minutes later – the power went off again. We reconvened on the couch, turning around, getting snuggly on the couch, finding our place in the book. About an hour later – the lights came on again. We scattered again, back to our “other nine”  lifestyles – getting back to the busyness of other things.

And now that we have had power a couple of weeks again – as we approach Thanksgiving – we are given the opportunity to turn around again; to snuggle back on the couch where we belong; to see the world in a new way.

Where we see the best use of our time isn’t plugged in; but connecting with others.  Connecting with others we take notice of those still in the cold, exiled and powerless and bring mercy.

Turn around and come back. Not just in gratitude that we survived the STORM: but at the foot of the cross where Christ gives life, heals and brings freedom; by touching your life with the life that is his own to give.

Turn around and come back. Kneel beneath the one who welcomes all back on the comfy couch. Give thanks – not just because you think you ought to – but because things are different now.

Turn around and come back. It is what the word “repentance” truly means in the New Testament. Not just being sorry, or giving lip service to saying ‘sorry’ enough getting off the hook – but living a changed, grateful life, and seeing the smile Jesus has on his face now that you’ve turned, and snuggled in the comfy couch.

Turn around. Repent. Come Back. Is there a better way to say thank you than that?

Maybe one thing. On Thanksgiving when you go around your table and say what you are thankful for, and thank your host for the wonderful meal. Try not to talk with your mouth full. Amen

GTS@CCD

(I preached this sermon as part of our town ecumenical Thanksgiving Service at United Methodist Church of New Canaan, in New Canaan, CT, Tuesday Evening, November 20, 2012.)

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