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Sunday, October 14, 2007

" . . .with truly thankful hearts . . ."

“And, he was a Samaritan”
Luke 17:11-19
XX Pentecost
October 14, 2007
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

There is a wonderful line in the prayer of General Thanksgiving which you can find on page 101 and 125 in the Book of Common Prayer that includes these words, “. . . . that, with truly thankful hearts. . . .” (or, in the poetic flourish of Rite I " . . .that our hearts may be unfeignedly glad . . .")

I think those words reflect the state of the 10th leper in this morning’s gospel.

Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee, which is a little like going through the land between a backwater and a hick town. Not exactly the ‘must-see’ stop on anyone’s vacation itinerary.

Galilee was a 'rough and tumble' kind of place – a place of people connected in some way to the commerce associated with this seaport town.

Galileans spoke Hebrew with such a thick accent that they weren’t allowed to read publicly in the Temple.

Sort of like someone with a strong Brooklyn accent (Think:'toidy-toid and toid)' or a bloke with cockney accent associated with the rugged working class in Liverpool (Think: 'The Rain in Spain . . .' from 'My Fair Lady').

Samaria was a place which had been so ethnically and religiously diverse for so long that intermarriage was the norm.

Samaritans rarely made the journey to pray in the Temple in Jerusalem, choosing, instead, to worship in their homes with a liturgical style that incorporated the more secular aspects of their lives as well as those which embraced the religious and cultural diversity of their spouses.

The ‘pure’ or ‘upper class’ Jews considered those from Samaria ethnically impure – the ‘mongrels’ of their race.

So, Jesus is traveling between Galilee and Samaria - a proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’ – when ten lepers approached him from afar, calling out and saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

And Jesus, when he saw them, instructed them to go to the Temple and show themselves to the priests. But, something happened on the way to the Temple – they were healed (or, as scripture reports, 'made clean').

All ten were healed, but only one turned back to thank Jesus.

Admitedly, that wasn’t part of the original deal. Jesus had not instructed them to go to the priests and then come back to him.

One leper did return to Jesus, not only thanking him but praising God.

None of the other 9 did this. Just this one.

“And he was a Samaritan.”


Just him.

He came back. Not any of the others.

Just one of the mongrels – not worthy, as one of the daughters of Samaria would later say to Jesus, so much as to gather up the crumbs from under the master’s table.

And yet, worthy enough to have been made clean.

Worthy enough to understand the worth of this miraculous healing to turn back, praise God, and give thanks.

This is someone with ‘a truly thankful heart.’

This is one who sees ‘the bigger picture’ – that not only are all things connected in this life, and we to them, but we are also deeply, intimately connected to the One who called all of creation into being.

This is one who understands that when you are caught between a rock and a hard place, when you are in that place when you think you have lost it all, you are in the best place possible to know gratitude.

This is one who understands that, while 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (Psalm 111:10) the initiation of gratitude is the foundation of joy.

Isn’t it often the way that it is ‘the foreigner’ in our midst, the one who understands what it means to be an ‘outsider’, who is often the very one who is able to help us move through our anxiety and fear and find our way back to our hearts?

Once there, finding gratitude, and " . . . with truly thankful hearts . . ." we are able to rejoice to find our true home.

I suspect it was the gospel story of the leper who inspired this prayer, which the BCP offers to us to be said at the end of The Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer. It’s a beautiful prayer, one I’d like to leave you with this morning and suggest you consider whenever you hear the Gospel of the 10th Leper:

“Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.”

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