Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gratitude: Pause and Point

It is December once more. It is the time of year many, most, think about
giving and also receiving.....hopefully with thanks - Keith Hunt

An old familiar thanks story yields new and lasting treasure

by Phil Huber

Traveling along the border between Galilee and Samaria, Jesus encounters
a leper on the outskirts of a town. Jewish law demands that those with
infectious skin diseases must live outside the camp (Leviticus
13:46). These are the societal cast-offs, the men who stand along
exit ramps with cardboard signs.

These ten men cry out for mercy, and Christ responds, telling
them to go show themselves to the priests. This is the first step
in a process of cleansing that involves birds, scarlet yarn,
hyssop, cedar wood, bathing, shaving, laundering, two male goats,
and flour with oil (Leviticus 14). What to most is a boring
litany of rules about cleansing is pointedly relevant to these
leprosy-controlled men. They are intimately familiar with what
God's Word says about their condition.

This cleansing process hangs like a checklist in their minds, one
they have dreamed of utilizing. Now Jesus has instructed them to
take the first step. When they set out, they are still covered in
leprosy. As they are on the way, the healing occurs. And with
this healing, their journey to the priest is infused with
urgency. Their minds are full of the checklist, the key to their
entry back into society. They are dreaming of white picket
fences, flannel sheets, coffee at Panera. Leprosy has hijacked
their lives long enough. For the first time in ages, there is hope for
their future. They are focused on completing the list.
All but one. One, when he sees he is healed, returns to say thank
you to Jesus. This is not on the list, not part of the cleansing
process. The birds, the hyssop, the scarlet yarn - these will
wait. He will pause from the list to express gratitude. And this
is thanksgiving, our willingness to pause from the enjoyment of
the gift to express gratitude to the giver. This pause, we
struggle with.

I like lists. I work best when I have an agenda. Plop me into that
group of ten, and I'm more prone to continue on with the nine than
to return with the one.
First let me get my feet under me. I'll finish the cleansing,
move into a split-level, lease a Corolla, start my new job. Then
I'll be in a position to properly express my gratitude. I can
entertain. I'll have Jesus over for dinner. We'll have the
spiral-cut of meat with the cheesy potatoes. By then, there are
new lists I'm focused on.
It's an implicit ingratitude. My failure to pause demonstrates
that while I may enjoy the gift, I am indifferent toward the
November is an annual reminder of my failure to pause throughout
the year to recognize how much God has given me. Sure, it's been
a busy year. A year full of lists. But it's also been a blessed
year. A year full of gifts from the hands of a loving Giver. Most
are enjoyed with the same implicit ingratitude of the nine. But
occasionally I join the company of the one and pause.
In that pause, Jesus says to the grateful man, "Your faith has
made you well" (v. 19, NIV). Luke recorded this exact phrase on
the lips of Jesus earlier, in Luke 7, where He is anointed by a
woman of sordid reputation.
The religious folk object, looking down their noses at this
sinful woman and her extravagant, perfumed display. Jesus
counters that those forgiven much love much. The self-righteous
have a polite affection for Jesus; this woman has a desperate love.
Jesus turns His attention to this societal cast-off and says to
her, "Your sins are forgiven," then follows it up with these
words: "Your faith has saved you" (vv. 48, 50). This phrase is,
word for Greek word, what Jesus says to another societal castoff
ten chapters later - a leper.
This linguistic parallel is regrettably not evident in the
familiar English translations. While the incident in Luke 7 is
clearly a case of a sinful woman in need of "saving," the
story in Luke 17 is in the context of physical healing, and so
the translators assume that Luke has this in mind. In that sense,
the common translation, "Your faith has made you well," fits
perfectly. But keep in mind that this is what Jesus says
exclusively to the thankful one, not to the afflicted ten. All
ten, after all, are healed. Doesn't it follow that what Jesus
offers the one grateful leper should go a step beyond that
healing? In this sense, "Your faith has saved you" is a better

All ten share in being made well. But this one receives something
special, something offered ten chapters earlier to a broken
woman: salvation - not merely from leprosy, but from sin. It's
through the healing that this man discovers the true nature of
his malady. Physical leprosy was destroying his body; spiritual
leprosy was destroying his soul. All ten are cleansed (Luke
17:14), but only one is saved (v. 19).

So we see that God's gifts point us to something greater. He
wants to use things that are temporal as pointers toward things
eternal. The gift of healing was intended to point them to a
greater healing.

Made for more

God has been gracious to me. In this moment I have much to enjoy.
A warm fire glowing in our fireplace, a beautiful autumn view out
our sliding door, a hot cup of English tea I just brewed, a
computer that allows me to edit my first draft errors, a brownie
left from last night's dinner with friends. It's all good, but
it's not complete. In a few moments I'll leave for work,
exchanging these markers of serenity for a frantic shift at the
store. I want more.
My appetite for the truest joy is stronger than these fleeting
moments can deliver. I delight in them all, but I was made for
more. They last for a moment or a span, but they're not eternal.
They point beyond themselves to something greater, reminders that
this is an appetite only eternity can satisfy. For all I have to
be thankful for this year, these time-bound blessings are
signposts to eternity.
Pause this season to enjoy the good gifts God has given, but
don't let that be the end of gratitude. All the good things God
has given point to eternity. They are a foretaste, whetting our
appetites for the pure delight of His eternal presence.

Phil Huber writes from Baldwinsville, NY.
From "The Bible Advocate" - Nov/Dec 2012
A publication of the Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO. USA

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