Thanksgiving Anyhow

Sunday, October 8, 2017
Deuteronomy 8:7-18
Luke 17:11-19
For the Lord your God is bringing you to a good land.....  A little thanksgiving caution:
We have come to this land.  Has God brought us?  There is a good question.
But we need to be careful with this passage.  Look at the verse just a little farther down:
You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.
This is where we need to be very careful.  As people of European descent - most of us - we came to this land, but it had already been given to the First Nations.  God did not give it to us.  That is why we find - in churches, and in other places, that gathering will begin with an acknowledgement of the territory.
We have inhabited, we have taken over, we have come with our sense of entitlement.....  And now we are here.  Hard to go backwards.  But we have a difficult heritage, we have a difficult history in how we came to control this land, a difficult history that we have largely ignored until recently.
But now is now.  Now is a time when we continue to seek truth and reconciliation.  Now is a time when difficult discussions need to take place between ourselves and the First Nations peoples.  And now is a time when difficult discussions need to take place amongst ourselves. 
And yet - there are many people, First Nations and non-native who are ready to talk.  So this might be a very difficult time, and yet a time when something new and wonderful will emerge: a new relationship that will impact the lives of all Canadians.
And so, even in this difficult time, I say: 
Thankgiving Anyhow. 
And I invite you to say: Thanksgiving Anyhow.
On the way to Jerusalem, there were 10 lepers.
This is a passage we have delved into before, but I want the image to be clear.
Jesus, with his disciples, walking the road between Samaria and Galilee.  And as he came into a village - a Jewish village - 10 lepers approach him..... but they keep their distance.  They are not allowed to come close to anyone.  Ringing a bell, calling out “Leper” when they are in places with other people, they spend their lives in a solitary fashion, just among other lepers.
So they approach Jesus.  But not at all close.  There - not close - they call out to him: “Jesus, master, have mercy on me”.....  And Jesus does something, without even touching them, and he sends them to the high priest, who acts as medical examiner.
One of them, on his way, sees that he has indeed been healed.  And he turns back, giving thanks.  The only one to do so.  And Jesus notices this particular individual, and notes that of the 10, this is the only one to come back – and that this one is the foreigner.  
What happened to the others?  Why did they not come back to give thanks?........ I’ll offer an answer in a minute.
But before I do that.... remember the refrain that we shared for the Deutronomy reading? 
“We will not forget the Lord our God.”
That’s because there was a big risk.  The people were coming into this new land, and they were going to do well there - lots of food, the comforts of life, as known in that era.  They were going to build great houses and cities.  Amazing things.
But.... as they accomplished more and more, there was a risk that got larger and larger: that they would think that THEY were responsible for it all, and that they did not need God, and that they deserved everything they got in any case.
And so they are reminded: Do not forget the Lord your God.
So what happened to the other nine with leprosy?
Well, they may have had several reasons that they did not go back to thank Jesus.  
But, among those reasons: they ‘deserved’ to have been healed.  After all, Jesus was of their own people.
It was the foreigner who did not feel entitled to the healing, who did not feel that he deserved it, who came back to Jesus.
We’re always at risk of forgetting to connect to God, we’re always at risk of forgetting to thank God.
Compared to the people of the days of Deuteronomy, we have far, far more.  We build structures that stretch to the sky, we send space ships beyond the solar system, we can create useful power from the building blocks of matter, we create cars that drive themselves and communicate with people around the world in an instant.
We’re at a huge risk of forgetting to connect to God, we’re always at risk of forgetting to thank God.  
Which of those who were healed are we?
Are we the ones who figure we deserve everything we get, because we are who we are, because we happen to live in this age and in this place?
Or do we refuse to take God’s gifts for granted, turn, and give thanks.
With the risk of turning away, let us, instead, turn to God and say:
Thanksgiving Anyhow.