A reflection on the readings for Proper 23C: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Luke 17:11-19
Whenever I am looking for something relatively mindless to watch on television I turn to the house hunter’s channel. I watch as people choose their vacation home in some exotic location. I can imagine the excitement of people relocating for work or family in Paris or Australia. I can join with couples purchasing their first home and remember my experience of house shopping. Regardless of the home being shopped for, people always seem most interested in finding the perfect kitchen.
Over time what the perfect kitchen looks like has changed. Right now everyone wants stainless steel appliances, wood floors and granite counter tops. Everyone seems to want the open floor plan, with the kitchen flowing into the dining room and living room.
The kitchen in my first house was a separate room off of the dining room. The kitchen had red linoleum floor tile and cream colored walls had a cream and black tile border. The gas stove was an old Roper from the 1940’s with the biggest oven I had ever seen. That oven held a perfect temperature even though it was forty years old.
This kitchen retained the warmth and comfort of many years of family life. It’s as if all the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners prepared in that kitchen left an imprint. I remember preparing meals for my young family, the room glowing with warmth on a winter night. Kitchens are the hub of family life. There is an old Russian proverb that says, “The oven is the mother.” Food, warmth, love, acceptance, gratitude all found in the kitchen.
Gratitude is at the heart of the readings this week. Last week we heard the parable of the mustard seed. This week Jesus tells another story. Once upon time there were ten people with some kind of skin disease who came to Jesus to be healed. All were healed and Jesus sent them on their way. Nine went off, doing as Jesus instructed. One of them was compelled to return to Jesus, and falling on his knees, thank him. This parable, like the mustard seed last week, is about faith in action.
But this week the most important piece of faith in action is the interior attitude of the person healed –gratitude!
The story in the Gospel has more than one layer that considers gratitude and faith in action. It’s a story of Samaritans and Hebrews who, although they share a common faith history, have been in conflict for a long time.
Jeremiah point us back to the place where the Samaritan and Hebrew conflict began. In 596 BCE the nation of Babylon, which today is Iraq, invaded Jerusalem. The elite class of Hebrew people were sent into exile and forced into slavery in Babylon. Like the custom of sharing meals at holiday time, Jeremiah pleads with the people to maintain their customs of faith.
Some sixty years later Babylon was defeated by the Persians and the Hebrew people were allowed to return to their home in Jerusalem. Those who returned became the leaders of the faith, also known as the Pharisees.
The poor, uneducated Hebrew people were apparently of no use to the Babylonians, they remained in Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day these people were known as the Samaritans, who practiced their faith with different traditions. So the problem between the Hebrews and the Samaritan’s of Jesus’ day is one of social status and right practice of faith. Who is practicing the faith correctly? The conflict is not so difficult to imagine.
The parable of the healed leper drives home the point Jesus is trying to make. He readily accepts the Samaritans and calls the Pharisees to examine their arrogant insistence on who is practicing the faith correctly. Healing the divided and broken places of the world is an act of faith. We work toward this reconciliation because God loves each and every one of us equally.
Maybe you choose to participate in healing the world by being mindful of what you eat. Maybe you do this by becoming informed about issues and candidates as you prepare to vote for in an election. Maybe you do this by becoming aware of how our actions contribute to global economic injustice. Maybe you do this by caring for the environment. All of you practice your faith and put it in action by coming to church where your faith is further formed. Here you can grow your faith with other people practicing their faith. Many of you do this by working with Blessings in a Backpack or the School Project in Liberia. Hosting coffee hour or participating in one of our many commissions is putting faith in action by nurturing our faith community. Many of you tend to the building of Christ Church, thus caring for all of the civic, community, social, and health based ministries that use church space for their livelihood. You offer your financial support enabling the vibrant Mission and Ministries of this church. You put your faith in action, with gratitude.
Jesus healed ten people of their disease. Nine went on their way, as Jesus instructed. But, what are we to understand about the one who returned? Perhaps, overwhelmed with the gift of new life he simply could not contain himself. He had to return to say, “Thank you!” In response Jesus said to him, “Your faith has made you well.” Faith and gratitude are interrelated and interdependent. Faith without gratitude is meager faith starving for real sustenance. Gratitude nourishes faith and gives us stamina for the challenges of life. Focus less on your fears and worries for what you do not have. Life will always have challenges, we will always have problems. Therefore, strive to live with a sense of gratitude for the blessings you do have.
Both faith and gratitude require intentionality and practice in order to be sustained. Faith and gratitude go together because one inspires the other. Faith and gratitude go together like a family gathering in the kitchen. There is nourishment for the soul, a restoration of wholeness in mind, body, and spirit.
Practice your faith, be intentional with gratitude, and then since your faith has made you well – go and do likewise for others.