Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sermon for the The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, October 14, 2007

The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 23

Year C

October 14, 2007

Jeremiah 29:1-, 4-7 Psalm 66:1-11

II Timothy 2:8-15 St. Luke 17:11-19

Nine of the lepers in the Gospel today simply forgot the three “G”s. And it has been a long time since I have spoken about the three “G”s from the pulpit but we have been trying to live them out here at St. Peter’s. Every vestry meeting begins with one of the three “G”s. And we at St. Peter’s have been carrying them out in many ways in the life and ministry of our parish family, but it is good to be reminded of them again. The three “G”s are Grace, Gratitude, and Generosity.

We seem to live in a rather crude and unthankful world. I don’t know if it is any worse now than in the past, but it sure feels that way. People just don’t seem to say thanks any more. Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part that we as a people were more intentional about expressing our thanks back in the good old days. But so often when I’m around town in shops and other places, the simple kindness of a thank you seems missing. Everywhere in the world today there seems to be a lack of the three “G”s. Oh you find wonderful exceptions now and then which surely gladden the heart, but overall the world seems a rather ungrace filled, ungratitude filled, and ungenerous place.

For those who like to count, it was a very poor return of gratitude in today’s story, only 10 percent. Jesus healed ten people of a horrible, defacing, incurable disease and only one returned to express his gratitude for that miracle.

Gratitude is more than just saying words of thanks. In the Christian faith it is also living it. I believe that the three “G”s provide an excellent starting place in our Christian faith walk.

The three “G”s are tied together. They are integrated in a naturally flowing manner. The first “G”, grace is that which we experience from God. We live in a world created by a wonderful, caring, and loving God. Beyond the wonder and miracle of creation, we experience the grace of God through Jesus and in all that we are blessed with in the world.

If we are truly in tune with all that we have received from God, the grace of creation, the grace of redemption, the grace of all that is on our table and in our home, then that should naturally lead to the next of the “G”s, gratitude.

I don’t know what it was in the nine that lead them to fail to see the grace of God at work in their lives. Perhaps the excitement of what happened and the desire to return home as new people made them forget their benefactor. But it is a powerful warning to us. They were touched by God in a way that is both powerful and moving. And yet the nine failed to return to thank God.

Living a life centered on gratitude sometimes calls for gratitude for the hard things as well. The prophet Jeremiah today was basically telling the people of God to get over it and get on living their lives. They were called to get over their exile from Jerusalem to Babylon and start living their lives fully in the here and now.

When things are not going as good as we might have hoped, the tendency is to focus on that issue, rather than making the best of our circumstances and being grateful for the places in which we can see God in our lives. The people from Jerusalem had missed this point and rather than focusing on living their life, in the place God had lead them, they were focused on the past, on the place they had been before.

Finally the experience of grace and gratitude lived out in our lives will hopefully call us to lead lives of generosity. I quite frankly believe that many of the difficulties facing the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion would be much less fractious and contentious if all of us practiced generosity in our lives. A little generosity of spirit could go a long way to healing our church.

If we intentionally focus on grace, gratitude, and generosity, it will help us to naturally move to a more positive kind of focus in our lives. We will learn to pay attention to what we can do in the world and in our lives in the here and now. We will free ourselves to be less focused on how it might have been better in the past or in a different present reality.

We are called to be evangelists. Those are people of share the Good News. Part of the Good News that God wants us to share are the three “G”’s. We need to share them in word and deed.

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