Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

Sometimes a quick email or a text message will suffice, but when it comes to expressing gratitude, nothing compares with a hand-written, put-a-stamp-on-it, thank you note.  It kind of puts some skin in the game.  I think it’s because true gratitude reflects true humility. 

Naaman (the main character of the reading we heard from the Book of Kings) was the commander of the entire Syrian army, a man of power.  But leprosy threatened to strip him of power but also threatened his very life.  He heard that the God of the Israelites, the enemy of his country, could cure leprosy.  So, he sends his slave girl, an Israelite herself, to find out if it is true.  And Elisha, known as a man of God, responds by inviting Naaman to come to Israel to be cured, telling him to plunge into the waters of the Jordan. 

Imagine the humility of Naaman: this powerful man asking a slave girl to find someone to cure him; humbling himself to go his enemy for help.  He had to shed himself of his pride and wash in the waters of a foreign land.  But he did it.  And he is cured.  He returns to Elisha to professes his faith: “Now I know that here is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”  And then, in the most humble of all stances, he asks for two mule-loads of dirt to take home to Syria so that he has a place to continue to offer thanks to the God of Israel every day.  The dirt would serve to bring him back to humility and to gratitude to God. 

We come before God for lots of things.  And I’d say that most of us are here in this church this morning for noble, if not at least reasonable, cause.  We come because it is a part of our tradition of faith, because we feel better after we are here, because we have a need or a hope that we want to place before God, because more than anywhere else we go during the week, we know that this is home.  But if we are not here first—before all else—in humble gratitude, we will leave mostly unchanged, unaffected by our worship. 

Gratitude, in the spirit of the Gospel, is not an expression of thanks for a single act of kindness, not an Emily Post obligation; it is a way of life.  Here, in this place, in this act of worship we call Eucharist, all gratitude is grounded here.  This is our dirt.

This “dirt”, grounding our faith in the Eucharist, constantly brings us back to humility and a never-ending life transforming gratitude. It sets the framework to shape our families and our society where every life is reverenced and respected.  It gives us a vision that we and everyone belongs to something bigger than us, that we owe one another a certain dignity that is not limited by boarders or labels.  It gives birth to the conviction that there are no “unclean” among us; that God has made all people sacred in their own right.  Gratitude brings us back to God. 

I think a case could be made, then, that every church should have a dirt floor.    Then we could take a handful of the dirt home with us, carry it into work, bring it to school in our backpacks, set a bit by our bedside as we kneel in prayer at night.  It would be a good reminder of what this Liturgy calls us to every weekend and what we are called to do every day:  to humble ourselves and give thanks.

Ten were made whole.  Only one wrote a thank-you note.

 

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