Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Eve: See God in a Bag of Apples

Readings for Thanksgiving: Deut 8:7-18, Psalm 65, Luke 17:11-19

I was at the gym one day last winter when I overheard two other women chatting at they worked out.  The first asked, “And how are you doing today?”
The second responded, “I’m blessed.  God is so good.”

They chatted for awhile and then the second woman said, “You know how last week I told you I was really hungry for apples.  Well, wouldn’t you know, God gave me some apples!”
"Really?  What happened?”

“Well I was at Bible study Saturday and after it was over, this woman came up to me.  She’s new to the study and I don’t really know her.  Anyway, she handed me a big bag of apples and said, ‘God told me to give these to you.  Enjoy your apples!’  I thanked her and took those apples home and ate one as soon as I got home.  I’ll tell you that was the best apple I’ve ever had!”
“Praise God!  He’s a good God, isn’t he!”

Now someone else might have gotten that bag of apples and thanked the giver and took them home and ate them, thinking how nice it was that someone gave them some apples.  But this woman saw something more than a generous impulse in that gift of apples.  She saw God working in her life.

Ten lepers stood by the side of the road outside a village. This was business as usual for the lepers.  They would often beg outside of villages, hoping for some food or maybe an old garment.  They would call out to those passing by for ‘mercy’. 
This particular day, Jesus was passing through the village.  The lepers saw the group of travelers near the town and as it approached, their hope rose as they recognized Jesus.  They had heard of his work as a healer.

“Jesus, Master have mercy on us.”
Jesus saw them, saw human beings in need and had compassion on them.  He tells them to go show themselves to the priest.  They would have understood that by sending them to a priest, Jesus has promised that they would be healed by the time they got there.  A leper whose disease cleared up had to be certified clean before he or she could return to the community.  The priest had already declared them unclean and the only reason to see a priest again was to be cleaned.

All ten obeyed Jesus.  They hurried off to the priest, and as they went, they discovered that they began to feel better.  Maybe someone looked at his arm only to find smooth skin where an ugly sore had been. 
Nine of the lepers continued to the priest – just as Jesus told them to. They were obeying Jesus’ direction and they were obeying the law.  The priest had to declare them clean.   After the priest declared them clean, there were sacrifices to offer.  It was a week long process, being declared clean – with directions on what sacrifices to offer when and how to prepare for the sacrifice and where to live during the process.

I have no doubt that there was singing and laughing and shouts of “Praise God!” among the nine as they journeyed to the priest.  And there was lots of rejoicing and hugs and thanksgiving when they returned to their families.  And then each of those nine former lepers took up their lives again.  The nine were healed and went on with business as usual.
But there was one leper, who upon seeing he was healed stopped in his tracks.  He glanced at the others as they continued their journey and then he turned back.  He was a Samaritan and there was no point in showing himself to the priest – he wasn’t allowed to worship in the temple and the priest would not have seen him.

He began to shout with praises to God as he returned to Jesus, fell at his feet, and thanked him.   

All ten lepers had been healed.  But only one saw the power of God at work in a new way in his life.  Only one saw in the power of God in Jesus. 

And it changed him forever. 

Tomorrow there will be lots of people sitting down to dinner with family and taking a moment to give thanks.  Maybe they’ll go around the dinner table and share one or two things they’re thankful for.  And they will enjoy the food and the time with family and the post dinner nap and the football game.  It will be a thoroughly enjoyable holiday.  And then many of them will go on with their lives.  It will be business as usual.  Thanksgiving is a day for them, not a way of life.
But for us, called to be children of God, thanksgiving is a way of life.  Like the one leper, we have seen God revealed in Jesus.  We see the power of God at work in our lives and in the world around us:

·        In the smile of our child

·        In the food on our table

·        In the blessing of our jobs

·        In the kindness of a friend

I could go on and on – but so could you.  Take a moment and think - where do you see God’s hand at work in your life? 

Do we recognize how God gives us the good things we enjoy?

In our reading in Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the children of Israel how God has worked in their lives, rescuing them from slavery in Egypt and is now about to bring them into a land of their own.  He cautions them to not forget all that God has done for them.  He cautions them to not boast in the things they acquire in this land God is giving them – their fields and herds and vineyards, the land they live on and the house they live in.  He cautions them to remember that these things they have are signs of God’s work in their lives.
We are called to live lives of thanksgiving and praise.  We are called to look for how God is working in our lives, for how God is working in the world around us.  We are called to point out how God is working and give thanks and praise.

Like the woman who saw God’s provision in the gift of apples, we are called to see God’s hand at work in our lives, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day.

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