At first it may seem that there is no obvious connection between our readings on this Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday… But there is! The first reading is set in Babylon – where the people of Judah were in exile – they who once had so much promise and hope in their wonderfully privileged Promised Land, but now were just devastated, their dreams shattered! Their beautiful Judah had been plundered: Their homes had been wiped out, their temple destroyed. They were now living as exiles in a foreign land under King Nebuchadnezzar. But instead of their prophet Jeremiah telling them to lie low and lick their wounds, they’re told to embrace their circumstances! Do the best you can to live as fully as possible where you are!
The second reading happened over 500 years later, as Jesus walked near Jerusalem and saw some lepers who’d been kicked out of society because of their disease and had pity on them. He healed them, but was disappointed that only one came back to thank him.
The second reading is about us living healed lives in ways that must most effectively express gratitude for our healing. That is the link between our readings today! They’re about us living in ways that express appreciation for what we know we have in Christ – that something which has been so beautifully secured for us through all the wonder of his promise, birth, life, his teachings, his death & resurrection…
Jesus’ point as we are touched by His love and are healed, is that we are NEVER to allow our circumstances to diminish us. These scriptures stress that it is profoundly good for us to choose to live in every sense of the word – choosing ‘to live’ with attitudes of profound appreciation and gratitude for everything! We are never to live less than ourselves – as we’ve been made to be!
Gratitude is huge in this! Jesus wasn’t wanting those other healed lepers to come back to thank him because that would be good for him – he wanted them to be living gratefully because doing so is good for them! Gratitude is how THEY would come to be alive!
Gratitude releases the best of life from within us, as opposed to living into the bitterness and victimhood which just steals everything, leaving us hard, cynical, jaded, people. It’s what Paul[i]describes as the ability to ‘be thankful in all circumstances’because we know that ‘this is what God wants from us in our lives lived in union with Christ Jesus!’
But then these scriptures not only teach us TO give thanks but also HOW best to do so! Jeremiah tells those refugees from Judah not just politely to tolerate their circumstances by putting up with them, they were being told FULLY TO EMBRACEtheir circumstances as if they were actually to anticipate a blessing through them as they did so! Build houses and live in them; It’s as if we’re being taught that wherever we are in our life – don’t ever just camp there, allowing ourselves to be defined by the worst of our circumstances: living haltingly, gloomily expecting the worst! NO! Set down roots! Live grateful lives that own how it is right here – where we are – that we believe God is most longing to bless us and use us! It doesn’t have to be somewhere else, because God isn’t restricted – if we can’t find sacred life and love and healing and hope and purpose right here where we are, chances are we won’t find it anywhere! God is everywhere… and in all circumstances!
And so, Jeremiah urges, plant gardens and eat what they produce. Sow into your circumstances – invest in making friends, develop/grow relationships, and be very blessed by what comes back to you…Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; Don’t hold back on the complete giving of yourself, as if you are waiting for something better, somewhere else! This is it! Here! Now! Embrace it! Multiply there, and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. The world is NOT the enemy, it is the context in which we are to find our God because THIS is both where God is, and where we find our place and purpose for being alive!
All of this: these people, these circumstances – is what God is currently choosing to wear and where God is wanting us to get busy! And clearly, there is so much for which we HAVE to get busy. We HAVE all been given SO much: ‘Just count your blessings name them on-by-one…’ But it seems to me that the most grateful people are those who not only notice what they have been given – but who take and actually usetheir gifts in order to express God’s purposes and to unpack God’s perfect intentions!
The gift that we ultimately have from God on this Thanksgiving Sunday – the one our God is MOST LONGING for us to give thanks for, is…LIFE! It is our restored-into-God’s-image SALVATION LIFE – the one God has always intended for us from before creation!…it’s the gift of us coming to know with those healed lepers how WE HAVE BEEN MADE WHOLE! …along WITH ALL THE REST OF LIFE WHICH HAS BEEN MADE WHOLE!
But these passages are also saying that it’s not enough for us simply to acknowledgethe gift that we have been given – although that is a useful first step – we need to use it!!!
We dare not hide – or horde – our talents in the ground – we need to LIVEthem! And to LIVE them right here where we are – in these particular circumstances where we find ourselves!
What do you most hear God saying to you this Thanksgiving Day?
GRATITUDE IS AN ACTION THAT WE ARE TO LIVE OUT AND NOT SIMPLY AN ATTITUDE WE ARE TO ADOPT.
How do you respond to that statement – agree? …disagree?
To what extent does that reflect how you live your life?
Why do you say that?
What do you intend to do about that?
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