November 20, 2016 – Giving thanks in all seasons

Thanksgiving Sunday       November 20, 2016   Psalm 65,  Deuteronomy 8:7-18, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Luke 17:11-19     Give thanks in all seasons ***************************************************** I wasn’t there to hear his tone of voice, so I really can’t say for sure – but it sounds to me as if Jesus is pretty ticked off and disappointed – with these nine of ten lepers who don’t say thank you – to the One who has healed them…. I can guess some of the possible reasons why they don’t praise God and give thanks… Maybe they were so thrilled to be healed they didn’t think – just made a dash for home. Maybe they were so focused on getting certified cleansed from leprosy so they could go home and reenter society that they forgot to say thank you – as their parents probably taught them to do from birth. Or maybe they were strict literalists. They heard Jesus say “go show yourselves to the priests.” They didn’t hear him say “and praise God.” Or, perhaps all nine fully intended to go home, clean up, dress up, come back quick to say a proper formal thank you… We don’t know… But whatever their reasons, we do know – only one of ten comes back to say ‘Thank you Jesus!’ And I can relate… I’ve been one of those nine. I’ve been known to forget to say thank you. And this is not a good defense – but – It’s pretty easy to be thankful…when everything’s going well… Easy to be thankful when we’re feeling good, surrounded by family and friends, feasting, enjoying good company… Like in a Norman Rockwell picture. Turkey on the table, everyone gathered round together, saying grace… Of course those wonderful Normal Rockwell moments are usually not the times when I forget to say thank you to God. And in fairness, I don’t think any of these  lepers are feeling like they’re in a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving picture… They’ve been kept outside society for as long as they’ve been diagnosed with leprosy. The term leprosy in those days covered a multitude of skin diseases. (Check out the middle chapters of Leviticus for details, but the term leprosy usually didn’t mean the illness we call leprosy today.) But having any form of leprosy did mean being excluded from the wider community – not allowed even to live in their own homes or move about freely even in their own home towns… So maybe these lepers have forgotten the good manners their parents taught them… Because of being away from home for too long. It is harder to be thankful when our family and friends are far away… As would have been the case for these lepers, who were required to live outside the city gates and identify their presence by shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever they approached other people…Their condition was considered highly contagious. I haven’t had to experience that extreme form of exclusion. And even on occasions when I have been far away from family and friends during holidays, I’ve usually had some kind of community backup available. I have pleasant memories from my seminary years in Boston, of being invited to share Thanksgiving dinner once in the home of one of our teaching assistants, who warmly welcomed me and made me feel like...

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November 24, 2013 – Christ the King Sunday

Christ the King Sunday  November 24, 2013 Luke 1:68-79, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Colossians 1:9-20;  Luke 23:33-43    What kind of King? ******************************************** [sing Jesus, Remember Me – #488 ] I’m guessing most of us don’t get a whole lot of Christ the King greeting cards. And I’ve yet to hear of anyone decorating church or home for Christ the King Sunday. And I think it’s probably safe to say, Christ the King Sunday is one of our more obscure days in the church calendar. Maybe we’ve got some kind of an image problem here?  I’ve heard it suggested that Christ the King is an under-appreciated day in the church year because of our alleged mistrust of all-things-related-to-kings here in America. This theory has it that ever since our hard-won independence long ago from Not-so-Great Britain, kings and kingdoms just aren’t generally topics we Americans like to spend much time with – unless we’re talking history, mythology, or Elvis. Against this theory, however, we have ample evidence indicating many Americans do still like to obsess a little about royalty. I remember more than a few parishioners up in far Northern Vermont, independent yankees for sure, yet saying in church the next morning after that last Big Royal Wedding across the Atlantic (broadcast on tv, even in Vermont) that they had stayed up half-the-night watching. And whether it’s serious stuff like The King’s Speech or lighter fare like The Princess Diaries, royalty still sells a lot of books and movies… We’ve still got clear images of how kingly life’s supposed to be – with castles and crowns, banquets and power-trips. We know quite a bit about how royal-life is supposed to be… So listen to our gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday: *********** [read Luke 23:33-43 ] When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” [The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.] *********************** Here’s our coronation text for King Jesus. No string orchestras playing royal symphonies. No cathedral full of loyal subjects. No banquet halls and ballrooms packed with honorable guests in fine clothing,...

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