An Early Thanksgiving
Luke 17:11-19
October 14, 2001

Everything is related.

We can see how hope is related to faith and both are related to love. All the good qualities we already have or aspire to can be seen to be related. To be a good person is to have all good qualities available and put to good use.

We can see how terror is related to anger and both are related to fear. All the bad qualities we already have or are trying to control can be seen to be related. To be a bad person is to have all bad qualities well practiced and put to bad use.

Life, however, is not just a matter of wearing the white cowboy had or the black cowboy hat. Most of us wear a gray hat or a checker-board hat. We find we relate not only to the good within us but to the bad.

Although there is nothing I know of which would justify the destruction of September 11, there is also no way to claim that as a country we have been entirely innocent.

The scriptures talk to us about getting caught in the middle of good and bad. How are we to live in this in between state. Listen to a handful of possibilities.

give thanks in all things 1 Thessalonians 5:18

be faithful in all things 1 Timothy 3:11

understand all things 2 Timothy 2:7

act honorably in all things Hebrews 13:18

glorify God in all things through Jesus Christ 1 Peter 4:11

These words give us direction about where to focus our life. We never know when we will be called upon to be grateful, even in the midst of difficulties.

Hear now the gospel good news. [read Luke 17:11-19]

Into each of our lives has crept difficulties. Some have been short term ones, sort of 24-hour flu type problems. Tough to go through in the moment, but short, none-the-less. I presume you can think of some short-term difficulties in your own life.

Some of our problems have been much longer, sort of chronic ailments which never seem to go away. Some of us have had renegades in our families who have caused problem after problem. Some of us have had loved ones dies and that memory continues to haunt. Some of us have been rubbed the wrong way by someone and never taken a second look at the problem to find the entry point for forgiveness and stored bitterness for long years. I suspect you can all think of some long-term difficulties in your own life.

In terms of the story we just heard about the skin-diseased lepers we are dealing with one of the long-term problems. It takes awhile to figure out that leprosy is present. It takes awhile to find an outcast band of lepers you can be associated with. It takes awhile to build up your courage to call out, "Pity us!"

And what we have in this scene is not a simple healing story. Jesus doesn't just heal and amaze people. He sends them on a journey to see the priests. It would be the priests who would officially confirm or deny that a healing had taken place.

The lepers were sent off, seemingly unhealed, on a very strange quest to find a priest. All things being equal it would be a very unsatisfying quest. Why go see a priest to confirm a healing which has obviously not taken place?

If you remember the handful of helpful directions referred to earlier you will remember that everything works together.

This is a remarkable reminder that in the midst of any disaster, whether personal or global, there is a healing already begun which we have yet to see.

Please turn to hymn 707, Hymn of Promise . [sing]

Jesus sends the lepers off seemingly unhealed. "Go to the priests."

How often have you and I felt that things just weren't simply unrevealed, but were definitely getting worse. How often have we given up on thanks, faithfulness, understanding, honor and glorifying God and done the easy thing of grumbling, stalking off, accusing, hitting, and blaming God.

This is the place we are at in the Jesus story. The healing we need is at work within us. We don't know when or where or how it is going to be revealed but we understand the goodness of life has already been planted within us and it will, in due season, be confirmed.

On a practical level it is important to know that our roof will get replaced and paid for. How and when are still mysteries to us. But can we live any other way than in hope? In the midst of the unknowns about the roof can we give thanks. Thanks that the old one has cared for us as long as it has, thanks that a previous generation faced the same questions about getting it done on and they went ahead and we benefited, thanks that we will be able to follow in their footsteps and go ahead on behalf of those who will come after us, thanks for the extra work this will need that will bring us to working more closely together.

On another practical level it is important to know that the common defense and general welfare issues of people everywhere will come through this tense time. How and when we will resolve our unreasonable fears into reasonable ones is unknown. How and when we will turn our small token of dropping food to starving people in Afghanistan into caring for the basic needs of all people before they feel that terror is their only way to get attention for their brokenness is still unknown. Who knew where the crucial decisions would be in any war? After the fact we can look back and memorialize certain events, but while in the middle of things it was not clear.

On another practical level we can take a look at the lives of our families and community and church. Issues of our personal lives and how confused we get about our feelings and our thinkings and our relationships are just as uncertain as are roofs and terrorism. There seems to always be some brokenness which needs to be healed.

In all of these things we need to remember that Jesus sends folks on their way with a seed of healing already placed within them. Jesus wants to send you on your way today knowing that the healing you need is on its way. Our call is to be grateful on the journey as well as at our destination.

I believe that if we are grateful along the way we will find gratitude flowing out of us when things are restored. Likewise, I believe if we are not grateful but expect things to be immediately better we will not be grateful when things are restored, we will simply take it as our due or our right.

May you and I, and us together, know that we are on the way to healing, even if it is unrevealed at this moment. May our roof be healed, may our world be healed, may our families be healed.

Let us pray:

Mysterious GOD who has placed within us the healing we need, be with us on this journey of revelation. As we travel as individuals and as a congregation, receive our gratitude for life and for life restored. Thank you. Amen.

Copyright 2001. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.

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