Saturday, August 29, 2020
No matter how cold life seems
God is with us, laying down tracks with us
shining on us day and night by sun, moon, and Holy Spirit
2 Chronicles 32:24-25
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. He prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not respond according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem.
Then one of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. The leper was a Samaritan.
Words of Grace For Today
False pride and arrogance or humility and gratitude, two apparently mutually exclusive manners of responding to all God has done for us.
In 2 Chronicles the writer interprets the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem as God’s response to Hezekiah’s proud and hard heart. In Luke the writer interprets Jesus’ healing the lepers as done in response simply to the lepers asking.
That one returns to thank Jesus, against Jesus’ directions that they fulfill the Jewish Law and show themselves to the priests (to be recorded as cured and therefore free to return to their families and position in Jewish society.) The one who returns gains nothing by visiting the priests. He is an outsider and gains no ‘return’. Leper or not, he is not accepted into Jewish society. He returns then to Jesus, acknowledging that Jesus has more authority than any priests.
Luke’s message is that those who are burdened with their own religious authorities and practices may well fulfill their obligations to them, Jesus still comes and heals those people. People with no locally recognized religious authorities and practices to fulfill (the Samaritan perhaps had some, just not recognized by the Jews), are free to recognize Jesus’ greater authority and to respond with appropriate gratitude.
Who are we?
We wish we were like the Samaritan, free to recognize Jesus’ authority and power with thanks and gratitude.
If we are honest, we are like the other 9 Jewish lepers, bound to duty to other authorities, and easily able to miss the wonders Jesus provides and therefore easily able to miss out on thanking Jesus and living with wondrous gratitude. That gratitude is a more powerful force in life than ‘falling in love’, about which much is written, spoken and known – how it transforms life for the better (or worse.) Gratitude transforms life always for the better, and it does not wear off after a short few months.
If we are honest, we are also often like Hezekiah, proud and hard hearted, completely capable of pleading to God for help when life catches us in disaster or deadly illness or total loss. But when it comes to giving God thanks for all God has given us, our breath and very lives … Well then we are back to fulfilling our ‘obligations’ to other authorities and demands (like careers, money, status, reputation among those driven by greed and avarice, and false images of ourselves as above or without God).
Luther described all of these as happening simultaneously in our lives as responses to the same events. To which he prayed as we well can: God save us!
And save us, Luther knew as we can know, Jesus already has.
We can choose to live lives transformed by thanks and gratitude. Bit by bit each day.
Where else are we going to turn for the living water? the bread of life? the Words of eternal life? the hope that does not disappoint? the promises that fill us so that we have more than enough to share with all who need life?