We’re in the season of thanksgiving and over the next few Sunday of November I want to focus on how people respond to Jesus and what it means to live a life of thanksgiving. We all welcome the grace and love Jesus has to offer but am I truly thankful for it in how I live? In how I love others? In how I treat others? In how I love my spouse? In how I treat my family? In how I love God’s Church?
Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, is on his way to Jerusalem. Luke has depicted Jesus eating with different people throughout his journey. Some were tax collectors and sinners and other meals were with the religious elite and the leaders of society. If you have some time, take a walk through Luke while paying attention to Jesus’ table fellowship and what takes place around food. When he eats with societal elites, he is hardly welcomed in with openness and love. He has the words of life but his hosts in these settings are often suspect of who he is. In turn, they receive challenges from Jesus as he speaks truth into their lives. Truth of who God is comes as inconvenient to those in positions of authority who have power to give up.
At the other end of a metaphorical table, Jesus is eating with the tax collectors and sinners. Jesus went to where people are. In their hurt. In their darkness. In the mess of their lives. I’m a firm believer that we should follow Jesus’ example here and meet people where they are and not where we are. Our Christian mission has often been oversimplified to “Invite Someone to Church” in hopes that they will hear a convicting message. What is fascinating about Jesus is that he does not set up shop in the Temple and invite everyone to come to him. He is the Temple and he takes the reality of God’s presence to people where they are. That being said, he meets people where they are, in love, with grace, but not with a call to change who they are in response to who he is. Zacchaeus, the wee little man, promised to give back four times the amount of anyone he has wronged. Jesus always meets them with grace, love, and respect, but also with a call to repentance and a call to righteousness.
Luke continually demonstrates that all are welcomed into the Kingdom. The only requirement is humility and repentance. The only entry point is to humbles yourself to God’s mercy and love. This offer is to everyone no matter what status one holds in this life. We’re only called to let God sit on the throne rather than sitting on the throne ourselves.
I want to focus this week on a story out of Luke 17:11-19. Jesus, heading towards Jerusalem and the fate that awaits him, travels along the border between Samaria and Galilee and encounters 10 leprous men. He doesn’t touch them like in Luke 5 but instead instructs them to go and show themselves to the priest. The priest is the only one who can reinstate them into society after declaring them clean. It does not say when they became clean but it had to have happened somewhere between when Jesus sent them and when they arrived before the priest. They had to act with obedient faith because they were cleansed along the way. They know who Jesus is. They recognized him and called out to him.
Obedience to follow Jesus from the point of being dirty to being made clean is an easy path to walk. He opens the waters of baptism to all people. Ten made the obedient walk towards cleansing but only one returned with thanksgiving. What does thanksgiving look like? How does he respond to Jesus? Was his thanksgiving a polite gesture in response to someone passing more turkey and stuffing at lunch?
Here is the question I want to wrestle with this month: What does a life of thanksgiving look like?
The walk with Christ begins with calling out for peace and mercy, a response of obedience to grace extended, and then a step towards Jesus in thanksgiving. The Spiritual life is born out of our remembrance of how we got to where we are in God’s Kingdom: Baptism through the grace extended by Jesus Christ. What is your response of thanksgiving?
What areas of your life demonstrate thanksgiving to the redemption you received in Jesus Christ? What areas of your life struggle to show thanksgiving towards Jesus?
Jesus gives us new life. New life is not a possession. It is, simply, new life. It is a new life of possibilities, of a new future that is developed day by day through decisions and actions. Life implies movement and growth. How does thanksgiving shape this new life?
““Spirituality” becomes far more than a science of interpreting exceptional private experiences; it must now touch every area of human experience, the public and social, the painful, negative; even pathological byways of the mins, the moral and relational world. And the goal of a Christian life becomes not enlightenment but wholeness.” – Rowan Williams
Your encounter with Jesus touches every aspect of your life. As you grow in this New Life, strive for wholeness as thanksgiving permeates every aspect of your life. Wake up every morning and thank Jesus for bringing you into the Family of God, the Chosen People, God’s special possession. We often go to God in prayer with requests of things we’d like fixed. Be sure to spend time thanking God for what he has done in Jesus Christ each day. I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we give thanks together!