Sunday, November 23, 2008

One in Ten

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

                        Luke 17.16 

Coming Back

Thanksgiving for me has no rivals among holidays (as opposed to “holy days”). Here in the States, we’ve overstuffed it with lavish feasts, store parades, football games, and gearing up to rise ridiculously early the next day to get a jump on the Christmas bargains. I wonder what George Washington, who declared the holiday, would think of this. On one level, he’d be aghast at the nonsense we’ve attached to it. But I also think he’d be pleased we’ve not abandoned the custom altogether. Buried somewhere beneath the turkeys and floats, the scrimmages and advertising, recognition still lives that there’s much to be thankful for.

Telling God “thank You” surpasses polite obligation. When done sincerely, it finishes the work His blessings start. It reawakens awareness we’d be nothing—and have nothing—without Him. “If the LORD had not been on our side,” Psalm 124 says, “we’d have been swept away.” We’re free to accept God’s blessings and go on our merry way, never returning to thank Him for being on our side. It makes no difference to Him. In Mark 5.45, Jesus says God sends sunshine and rain equally on the evil and the good—His favor, like His love, comes without condition. But coming back in gratitude makes an enormous difference for us as an act of faith, a confession of belief He can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3.20) Thanksgiving makes faith happen and faith makes things happen. Luke 17 offers a superb example of this principle.

From a Distance

Jesus is traveling the border between Samaria and Galilee en route to Jerusalem when 10 lepers call to Him from a distance, begging His mercy. He hears them and instructs, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They obey and Luke reports they're cleansed as they go. After one of them, a Samaritan, realizes what Jesus has done, he returns, rejoicing loudly, and falls at the Lord’s feet to offer thanks. Jesus asks, “What happened to the other nine? Weren’t they cleansed also? How is it that only one saw fit to stop and thank God for this—and he’s not even a Jew?” He pulls the grateful man to his feet, telling him, “Your faith has made you well.”

Though his account is brief—10 sentences in four verses—Luke packs it with information, starting with Jesus in the borderlands, well away from Jerusalem’s temple establishment. The lepers’ “unclean” status stops them from crossing the distance society has wedged between Him and them. Unwilling to let Him pass them by, they call to Jesus and He sees them where they are. Directing them to the priests, He ignores religious laws labeling people in their situation as unfit for worship and public threats. Essentially, he tells them to cross the socio-religious chasm for themselves. As they step out by faith, they’re transformed so that the priests and people accept them.

Getting to Jesus

Luke doesn’t confirm the other nine go to the priests. Most likely they do. But it's also possible they skip the temple to enjoy their inclusion in society. Either way, it’s not important. The Samaritan leper—an outsider twice over—earns Luke’s full attention. Two concluding events explain why. First, cleansing removes all boundaries between him and Jesus. Getting close to Christ matters more than priestly approval and public acceptance. Second, thanksgiving brings his blessing to fullness. Jesus raises him up, telling him not only is he cleansed. His act of faith has made completely well, inside and out.

While religious conformists gravitate to temples, Christ walks the borders. That’s where He’s found. Condemnation encourages us to believe we’re unclean, spiritually and socially unacceptable. Still, we can’t allow Jesus to pass without ministering to us. We call Him from a distance. He speaks to us where we are. He commands us to ignore fears of rejection and make the first move. Confidence in His word cleanses us of shame and scorn that mar our self-image. We see we’re like everyone else. That alone may be enough for 90 percent of us who, in the excitement of acceptance, don’t sacrifice the time to come back and thank Him. But one in 10 of us does, grasping the truth of what’s happened. Barriers between Christ and us don’t exist. Getting to Him matters most of all. Our gratitude is so overwhelming we throw ourselves at His feet. He lifts us up and makes us whole.

As we in the US approach Thanksgiving, I urge all of us here to reflect on how Christ has cleansed us from the stains of stigmatization and rejection. I pray we’ll stop what we’re doing, turn around, and fall before Him to say, “Thank You.” When we do that, I believe we'll receive healing we need, inside and out. Faith through thanksgiving transcends cleansing. It makes us whole.

(Tomorrow: He's Good)

One in 10 was here.

Personal Postscript: Passing It On

This week, Straight-Friendly was doubly honored when Sherry of A Feather Adrift and Fred of The Rev’s Rumbles passed The Superior Scribbler’s Award our way. Receiving such a prize from either of them would have been thrilling, given my admiration for each. But coming from both was overwhelming. The acute introspection and probing inquiry that are the stalwarts of Sherry’s blog—and their reflections in her comments here—are a constant inspiration. This is no less true of Fred’s vigilant attention to social, theological, and political issues and his courageous advocacy of GLBT equality. If you’ve not yet added them to your reading, you’re missing two of the most exciting, provocative writers we have out here in the blogosphere.

Now, it’s my turn to pass The Superior Scribbler’s Award on, which is the best aspect of winning, because it opens the door to recognize other friends, old and new, whom I’ve come to admire. But I first should explain how the award works.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

So, without further ado, I’m delighted to give The Superior Scribbler’s Award to:

  • Missy of Missy’s Big Fish Stories. If Missy thinks it’s worth writing about, she makes sure it’s worth reading. The beauty of her style and content come from her remarkable talent for combining cool intelligence, warm emotion, and an inimitably wry sense of humor in all she writes.
  • Fran of Franiam. In mind and spirit, Fran’s a sister I never had. But in cyberspace, she’s the Mother Superior of us all. Her deftly turned dispatches hum with the kind of vitality and earthy wisdom that holds an extraordinary diversity of readers in endless fascination.
  • Leonardo of Eruptions at the Foot of the Volcano. Leonardo’s fervor fuels every word he writes about his twin passions: global GLBT equality and his faith, often focusing his searchlight through the prism of his treasured Anglican tradition.
  • John of Open a Window. John gives us a marvelous gift as he writes his way through coming out to himself, his family and friends, and his God. Reading him is like picking up Pilgrim’s Progress. Along with everyone listed here, he’s a regular S-F reader/commenter and I’m so grateful he’s allowed to join him on his journey.
  • Davis of Audacious Deviant. While he posts less often than many bloggers, Davis’s exquisitely chosen words and illustrations speak volumes. If there’s such a thing as a “holy” blog, this is it. When I’m there, it’s as if I’m in a magnificent cathedral filled with enthralling images that bring life to even more enthralling ideas--just as it should be.


FranIAm said...

Oh my brother Tim - you are unbelievable. Thank you for this. Look at the esteemed company of bloggers you put me in... what am I doing there?

Thank you and thank you.

The real award or reward is to be your sister, that is my gift!

Thank you!

Tim said...

The pleasure's all mine, Fran. The honor is richly deserved--and the new avatar is smashing!

Missy said...

Thank you, Tim! You are too kind. And now some more wonderful bloggers to read--I haven't yet visited Leonardo, John, or Davis, but you can be sure I will.

And your post about Thanksgiving is spot on. I love how you said, "Telling God 'thank You' surpasses polite obligation. When done sincerely, it finishes the work His blessings start."

Closing the circle. Amen!

Tim said...

Missy, I couldn't be more delighted to pass the prize your way. And I'm really glad somebody else didn't beat me to it! I know you'll enjoy Leonardo, John, and Davis as much as I do. They're kindred spirits.

A version of this will probably turn up in one of the next few posts, but I can't resist dropping it in here in response to your comment. My grandfather was a true titan of faith--an accomplished Bible teacher who understood the Word and understood how to live by it. When I was kid and we visited him in Alabama, I'd follow him everywhere, watching and listening to everything he did. As he moved around the house or drove or just sat with us in the backyard swing, every now and then something would cross his mind and he'd say quietly, "Lord, I thank you."

Finally, I asked him, "Why are you always telling God 'thank you'?"

"Well, son," he said, "I'm just doing my part of the job."

I've never forgot that. And as I get older, I find myself doing the same thing whenever an instance of God's goodness springs into my head. It makes sense somehow that until we say thank-you, the work isn't complete.

Have a blessed Lord's Day!

Leonardo Ricardo said...

WOW, Thanks Tim, I love to come visit your blog too...I keep being inspired in a way that reminds me of being nicer, kinder and more gentle as I keep ranting on and on about Injustice, equality and the fear and hate that sometimes is generated at Church...and harms other Christians (and others too)! Thanks for the award and thanks for including me with such wonderous REAL LIFE online heros!

BTW, I´m crazy about your Thanksgiving tribute and I hope you don´t mind if I borrow you and it next week!

Rejoice! God is good!


johnmichael42003 said...

Thank you so much for the award. It is an honor to know that I have reached out to someone, somehow.

I think it our new "me, me, me" attitude, we forget to thank God for the small miracles in our lives. I have never believed in mere coincidence or chance happenings. I have always thought these small wonders, are God's mircales paving the way to our happiness and our journey of spiritual discovery.

One of my friends gave me a journal for Christmas. Instead of using it to write down about my day, I have been using it to write down the things for which I am thankful. And I'm not perfect in this...there are many days which I forget to thank Him for all He has done for me.

Tim said...

Leonardo, you're so welcome! After I compiled the winner's list, I must confess I stood back and looked at with righteous pride. The diversity of styles and approaches to life among them was so great and yet, as you so aptly put it, every one of you is so ineffably real. I love that! (OK, I'll cop to some personal pride, too, at all of you being S-F readers...)

And any time you see something here you can use, by all means, please do. Pride of ownership isn't a problem I've been given, which I'm exceedingly thankful for.

John, you too are so welcome. One of the many reasons why I chose your blog was a compulsion to help you reach out in some small way. I hope it works.

I love the thanksgiving journal idea--and I now have something to ask for for Christmas! Having a journal on hand will help inspire me not to overlook anything, including the "small wonders" that often masquerade as coincidences and luck. It's a terrific way to track God's goodness in our lives. Thanks!

Peace and blessings to both of you!

Davis said...

I, a simple sinner, am humbled by your words. What I don't do is claim any credit for the works I show - because they are by true masters seeking to glorify God through their visions.

Tim said...

Davis, I feel you. Yet I would argue that you too are glorifying God by assembling these masters and ideas so masterfully. And I believe what makes the works you show so compelling is that they were created by men who also regarded themselves as simple sinners.

Have a blessed week and happy holiday!