Lightcap-2Thanksgiving Day
The Reverend Torey Lightcap, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Kansas
Luke 17:11-19

 

Let us pray. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe. For you create the fruit of the vine and bring forth bread from the earth; And on this day we remember that you have given us the bread of life In the Body of your Son Jesus Christ, And refreshed us with the cup of salvation. As grain scattered upon the earth is gathered into one loaf, So gather your Church in every place into the kingdom of your Son. To you be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

I am aware that some of the luminaries of Anglican thought have made this pulpit a place from which to expound and to move people, individually and together, into a deeper and richer relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I am also aware that too much reflection on the act of preaching, While one is actually preaching, Can be just kind of unseemly.

Nevertheless, I’m afraid what I have to say cannot wait!; I have acted thoughtlessly, in a rash and boorish manner; What I have done demands my public apology. And so I wish to use this pulpit for my own selfish purposes.

You see, I made two pies last night – A pumpkin and an apple – using a store-bought crust rather than making crusts by hand; And let’s just say I didn’t spring for the top of the line pie crust. And I don’t have enough experience to take something like that and make it any better. Even with all my tricks, the edges of those pie crusts are somewhere north of “nicely browned.” The overall effect is as if someone lovingly torched the outside. So I am afraid that in my spendthrift way, I may have spent three hours in the kitchen last night actively creating a series of disappointments.

Ah, but I am strong in will; And through my culinary cheapness, my family is learning to have an iron constitution.

I feel somehow cleansed through my confession; things are better; I think we’ll get through it.

… We do bring all of ourselves here today, don’t we?
If we stopped to take inventory of all that consumes and troubles us, Labeled it and set it next to us, stacked each concern neatly upon another, I’m afraid this room would be piled practically to its vault with our worries, doubts, and concerns. If we set them again into some kind of prioritized order, I daresay a burned pie crust would be close to the bottom.

My Grandpa Lightcap was from Dodge City, Scrawny, mercurial, and tough; And he moved through the world with the same steely attitude as his predecessor Wyatt Earp. Grandpa was a man of only a very few words who did not waste time on giving balanced appraisals of things. For example, concerning the entire State of California, he would only say that he “wouldn’t give five dollars for the whole thing.” Anyway, we’d be sitting in a coffee shop having breakfast, and he’d look up from his pancake, And he’d say, The world ain’t right.

Sitting in here among our carefully labeled boxes of trouble, Our mountains and jumbles of misgivings and sorrows, you could almost write it on a banner today, and hang it outside. There’s a palpable, collective dread and feeling that the world ain’t right.

And we could run down the list, but what good would it do, other than to compound the dread?

Those lepers we heard about a few minutes ago –
It’s important to understand that by the time their disease was fully raging for them, Their lives were done. They had no social standing; they lost contact with their families; They had to beg for whatever they could find. The world, for them, was way past being merely “not right.” And then this man showed up.

In the lives of those ten lepers, Jesus stood for but one brief moment between them and the forgotten possibility that they might actually get their lives back. Once he had returned them to physical healing and fullness, he was all that stood between them and the return to their old lives; And in their great excitement, who could blame them for forgetting to turn around for one fast moment and offer the briefest word of thanks?

If the nine ran off and only one returned, lingered long enough to utter a word of gratitude and praise, then maybe that one was merely the exception that proved the rule. Ah, but one would be so much better than none. It was up to him to remember, and he did – this outcast Samaritan man – Stopped and turned and fell at Jesus’ feet and in a loud voice praised the Son of Man, and said, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you … so much.

Jesus did not make the healing of the ten conditional upon their acknowledging in advance how great a guy he was. He gave them life out of who he already was – the Son of God who loved them all dearly – And any genuine word of gratitude was gently received.

He did come to set the world right, but he never said that we would not experience woes and heartaches. We have only to look to the cross to see how God recognizes the problem of human suffering. In the end, he did set the world right, but it was in a series of ways so poetic and so unlikely and so inconvenient that they would be easy to overlook. So instead we try to find little shorthand ways to talk about him, And we say that he is the answer, and we hang metaphorical banners on our buildings that say, in effect, “The world is right, if you’ll only come in here and see.”

And we want Jesus to go with us, each one, carefully through the entire inventory of this room: All our Boxes of Trouble. And do you know what? In my experience, over time, he actually does. He is with us this day to guide us, to receive our meager praise, to hear our need, And to help us to know that he is present in every dark moment of doubt, pain, fear, sorrow, apathy, cruelty, unfairness, and indignation. We show him our boxes and their contents; he lovingly assures of his presence; we thank him. In the end, he hands everything back to us, and it is our decision as to how we wish to hold these things, And what we wish to do about them.

A life without trouble or pain is a plain fiction, and no life at all. We come today, not to unload our lives but to acknowledge them before God: The full sweep, the totality, the complexity of them, the good and the bad. And in the face of it all, to stop, to remember, – Where does our life come from? We stop, we turn, we fall with our faces to the ground, we grasp at his garment, And we cry out with a loud voice as those healed of a great sickness:
Thank you. Thank you so much.

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