Word of the Week

What Gratitude Can Do

The past month of worship at Washington Plaza, we've been examining how God might be calling us to the practice of thanksgiving-- more than just the on the day our calendar calls "Thanksgiving."  We've talked about how thanksgiving can merge from a once in a while sort of experience to an everyday life approach.

Going off lectionary, we've read two stories from Luke's gospel which speak to what it means to respond to Jesus in gratitude. Last week we tackled the feeding of the five thousand playing close attention to the portion of the story where Jesus broke bread and "gave thanks." And, this week, we stuck close to the story about the 10 lepers receiving a miracle but only one coming back to say thank you.

I engaged in a lot more work with the particular meanings of words in the Greek than I usually do and what I uncovered really surprised me.  I began to see for the first time the distinction between what the 10 lepers received and then what only the one leper got because he came back to say "thank you" more than being thankful is obviously the nicer way to live. I was captured by the difference between a cure and healing.

10 of the 10 were cured, yet only 1 of 10 was healed.  

In his coming back to connect with Jesus again about what had just happened to him, the gratitude expressed became a bridge to more than being physically well.   Because ultimately as a human beings we are more than our physical beings, aren't we? We are physical, emotional, and spiritual creatures. And in healing for one this man included all of this coming into peace.

Jesus tells him that “his faith had made him well.” This phrase “made him well” comes from the Greek word sozo which is commonly translated “to save.” A soter is a “savior, deliverer.” Thus, in being “made well” the one finds salvation, but not salvation in the way that many of us might think of in terms of the typical “get saved” terminology. By coming back in praise of God, he was acknowledging his dependence on something greater than himself. He was receiving God into his life.

And, in doing this, the years of anger, the years of bitterness, “Why me, God?” the years of emotional and spiritual pain were no longer chains that bound him up on the inside, as much as his disease isolated him from others on the outside.  He could find rest for his soul, rest that was more than just having been cured from leprosy could have given him.

I realized that many of us may never have our prayers for "cures" answered just as we want them, but if we abide throughout our lives in gratitude, we see more of God all around us. And, it is in seeing God, in all of God's goodness in the smallest of moments of life,  healing finds us. Cures come and go, but healing is something we can all have IF we just open up our hands to the process of receiving it. 

I always knew that gratitude was an important virtue, but now I'm inspired more than ever that the healing that needs to take place in all of us depends on it.