We have entered into the joyful Season of Thanksgiving and harmonious kindness. Just think about it. There will be meals prepared for the poor, turkeys, hams, and other food distributed, and don’t forget the acts of reconciliation. Then Christmas quickly rolls in, and there will be holiday parties, an abundance of gifts, smiles, and warm conversations with absolute strangers. Tis the Season to be loving, joyful, kind, peaceful, civil, helpful, charitable, kind… Oh! And yes, this is the Season to be thankful for a myriad of reasons.
As we begin to enjoy the holiday season, I want to remind us all that as Christians — that is those who have given their lives to imitate the loving life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — love, joyful, goodness, peacefulness, civility, helpfulness, charity, kindness, and Thanksgiving are not date specific or event centered. These are Christian acts. These are the fruit of the Spirit.
If you are like me, you long for the holiday season because, quite simply, love is in the air. There is this atmosphere of the expectation of goodness. It’s a euphoric time of joy. If I turn on the television, its hot cocoa, or other beverages, and families gathered around a dinner table with a bountiful meal. If I walk outside, I’ll see random acts of kindness, or as I enter the store, I pass a Salvation Army volunteer collecting money to aid the least, the lost, the left out, and the left behind. In a country where we have a sitting president who wants to segregate America from the larger world while locking thousands of little dreamers, the children of immigrants in cages, we need a holiday season of love and peace and goodness and joy.
Through it all, there is a reason to have joy and be thankful every day. If in America, from the short span of Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, we can pause from much of what divides us to embrace the loving acts of God which unite us, then we have demonstrated that we can be a kinder and gentler nation. We can offer spaces of hospitality to strangers and go the extra mile for those who are trapped in the margins of life.
Let me ask you, isn’t that the Church? By the Church, I don’t mean the building that we raise funds and sell fish dinners to build. By the Church, I do mean the Body of Christ that exists to establish the Kingdom of Good that is imbued with love and mercy and justice. Have we forgotten that this is the Church’s reason for being? We are to be graceful, and we are to be grateful.
We must return our communities to sharing and Thanksgiving. We ought not to wait for a season of Thanksgiving. We should place the demand upon ourselves to live lives of kindness and thankfulness; however, if we are to accomplish this, then we had better shake ourselves free from being seasonal Christians, who give seasonally, attend church service seasonally, and attempt to live a Christ-like life seasonally. We must once more be awakened to reacquaint ourselves with the way of our Lord in order to face a divisive world as we think more deliberately with a collective Christian mind.
As I close this message to my beloved St John community, I am reminded of a story that details the power of Thanksgiving in the 17th Chapter of Luke’s Gospel account. In the 11th verse, we read about the 10 Lepers of Samaria. As Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem, there were ten lepers who called out to Jesus to help them. Scripture says they stood afar off because they were not allowed to be in commonplaces, because they were ceremonially unclean. Now, it’s important to note that Jesus was a Jew, and Jews did not fraternize with Samaritans because Samaritans were a despised group. But Jesus accepted them. Jesus heard their cry. Jesus offered them a space of hospitality. Jesus answered them. Why? Because Jesus is Love in action, and the Church must also be that love in action in a world that only seeks to perfect a kind of love seasonally.
As we read this scripture, we notice that the lepers asked Jesus to favor them. Their request was not reciprocal of any merit. They were seeking grace, which is unmerited favor. They said, “Jesus Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus answered, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” This shows the comprehensive healing and wholeness that was provided by Christ because once one was healed, they had to wait a minimum of seven days before presenting themselves to the priest for societal reentry. When Jesus heals, there is no need to wait to know if one is truly healed. When Jesus loves deliverance and salvation is apparent. When Jesus does it, it’s done. You’re healed. Scripture says that they were healed as they went to the priest; however, one former leper, upon noticing his healing, didn’t need to see the priest to affirm his healing. He turned back to offer a praise of thanksgiving to Jesus. The other nine were like far too many of us in the Church are today; they did not turn from their way. They were not thankful. But the one who was thankful learned something that the ungrateful others never returned to learn.
Jesus exposes that the other nine had not returned, but he edifies the one who did return. The other nine will always be subject to an external source to provide for them. The others will wait until they are in another season of need, and they’ll become seasonally kind with the hope that they will receive a seasonal blessing. The one who returned learned how healing comes. “And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” A spirit of Thanksgiving opened the door to the one who returned to a gift of God that dwells within in order to connect one to whatever one needs from the Will of God. The others will live for a season of Thanksgiving; however, the one who returned will live from a spirit of Thanksgiving. Let’s share with our neighbors every day. Let’s be thankful every day.