As an eight year old too impatient for Santa’s slay, I schemed up a scheme. We were away at my grandparent’s for the holidays and I volunteered to sleep in the Florida room on the unsupervised side of the house opposite the snoring adults.
Come 3am, with Exacto knife precision, I silently opened every present of mine under the tree, took inventory of the haul and then meticulously rewrapped each one to cover my crime. On Christmas morning the next day, after breakfast and stocking stuffers, I feigned surprise at finally getting a beloved Lincoln Log set.
I was good at opening presents, but things turned bad once my mom waded through the piles of wrapping paper to hand me a pen and a stack of thank you cards. Put in more adult terms, “Its a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation” Roberto Benigni.
Luke 17:11-19 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
What’s the most faithful response to God?
Taking time to give thanks
Choosing to not follow the 90%
To turn back
The responses are many: “You really shouldn’t have. Why waste your gift on me, I can’t afford it, don’t deserve it.” Or, “I don’t want to be indebted to a higher power that’s not of my own making. I only accept gifts that I’ve earned.” Or, “I’ll go with the crowd, the 90%, participating in dirty purifications, uttering empty prayers, observing religious observances that lead to cold obedience instead of warm love.”
“Perhaps,” as Fredrick Buechner says, “it is the very wildness and strangeness of grace that have led us to try and tame it.”
The most faithful response is bellowing out an exuberant praise when the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the leprosy of our lives is finally cured.
We are called to a faith that makes us well, where saying grace is our deepest beginning, where doxology is our highest end, where we celebrate the most unchristian of Christian holidays everyday: Thanksgiving.
Fred Craddock tells a similar story of a woman who went through life appreciating nothing, scratching at the blessings she couldn’t take credit for, covered by the sores and scabs of malcontent. She was an atheist.
Then she got pregnant and the baby came and the nurses laid the wrapped child on her breast. And when mom embraced daughter for the first time, she had a conversion experience. A friend walked into the hospital room and wondered, “After all this time, why would you believe in God now?” Caressing her infant, she replied, “I needed someone to thank.”