Getting Ready for Sunday by The Rev. Joe Hermerding
I can still remember the day quite vividly. I was in my dorm room as a college freshman. I had been through an accident and broke my leg a few weeks before. But my legs were getting stronger. I remember thinking, “Let’s see if I can do it...” My roommate was gone and the hall was quiet as I braced myself with one arm on my bunk bed, and the other on my desk. And I slowly lifted myself from my wheelchair. Gingerly, I balanced on my own two feet, and was even able to let go of the desk and bunk. I was standing up! I remember excitedly thanking and praising God for the ability to stand.
Thankfulness is a funny thing. So often we aren't thankful for something until it's taken away. Often times our thankfulness for something wears off with time. I must admit I haven't thanked God for the ability to stand in the last week. Or month. The lepers, of course, have much more reason to thank Jesus than me and my broken leg. Their whole lives were taken away by this disease. Leprosy would have forced them to live apart from their families and friends, for fear of spreading their affliction. I am willing to bet it was the loneliness that would have been the hardest part of dealing with leprosy, even more than the physical pain. It is to their families that the nine were probably headed when the one came back.
My wife and I are in the midst of teaching our young kids to say, “thank you”. It is a lot of repetition. When my three year old daughter Maggie asks for something at the dinner table, I will hand it to her, but I will only loose my grip when I hear the “magic words.” All parents have probably been there. It is good for us to be reminded that what we want for our children is thankful hearts, not just appropriate responses in various social situations.
Sometimes we can use our perfect manners to avoid God. Always saying the right thing, in order to put forward the facade of having it all together. Of these it has been said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15.8) What can we learn from the one leper who returned to Jesus? Two things at least. First, we can learn that thankfulness is not a cliche. Rather, it is the solid rock from which we must build our relationship with Christ. It is so because it is true. What do we have that we did not receive? Second, we must learn that the gift points back to the Giver. Everything from physical healing to our ability to stand comes from Him. This was the impulse of the one leper who returned. He was more concerned with the Giver than the gift.