“He makes his marvelous works to be remembered, the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” Psalm 111:4
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The Leper’s Thank You
When I was a young girl my mother used to make me write thank you notes whenever I was given a gift. This was one of her “home training” rules (home training rules were designed to ensure that you had good manners). My mother wanted me to understand how important it was to be grateful that someone took the time to find something I would like, buy it, wrap it and give it to me. Thank you notes were to be written and mailed within the week. And, it took time to write those notes because it required thinking about what the gift meant to me and which words would best show my appreciation. I kept up this tradition for many years and I still hear my mother’s voice in my head if I do not send a thank you note when I should.
As I read the lessons for today I noticed how grateful Naaman and the Samaritan leper were when they received their gifts of healing. Each man immediately gave thanks and praised God. When I reflected on what it must have been like for them to finally have hope and be welcomed back into their communities, it occurred to me that it would be interesting to think about what it would have been like for one of them to write a thank you note to God for the gift of healing. I imagined that the Samaritan Leper’s thank you might sound something like this:
Dear God, today I met your son Jesus and he changed my life. You see, for years I have been in great pain, covered with terrible sores, and my body was disfigured. I had to tell people to keep away from me by shouting that I was unclean or not speak to them at all. Folks shunned me and told me that I was sinful. I felt so lost and alone, sick and forgotten, it all hurt so bad.
Over the years I begged at the city gates asking for help and hoping that someone would at least be kind to me. No one was. Today I met a group of lepers who told me that they were going to see if this man Jesus would heal them and they asked me if I wanted to come along. To tell you the truth, I did not see how it would do much good, but I was desperate, so I went with them. When we saw him we all called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He told us to go and show ourselves to the priests. I thought to myself, “How is that going to help me? They also shun me.” But I decided to do what he said and that is when I felt the sickness leave me. I looked at my arms and legs and the sores were gone. I had no pain and my skin was like that of a newborn child. My heart leapt for joy.
That’s when I knew that your son healed me. He told me that it was my faith that made me well and I remembered all the times I prayed to you for relief from my suffering. God, thank you for sending me to your Son so I could receive your gift. I know that it came from you through him. You needed me to see that there are people in the world who care for those of us that others ignore or avoid. You wanted me to know what it felt like to trust someone and have that trust rewarded. I am so grateful, truly grateful, for being healed and for the compassion I received.
Many of us are like the nine lepers who did not think to take the time to stop for a minute to give thanks. A bible study* I reviewed for this week’s lessons posed some interesting questions about why the one leper returned and the others did not. Maybe the nine were eager to get certified by the priests so they could return to their families. Maybe they intended to come back later. We will never know how and why they made the choices that they did. We also do not know why the one returned. Maybe his mother made sure he had good “home training.” We can, however, think about how we might want to respond when we receive gifts of healing from God. With that in mind, I am about to share with you an activity from the bible study.
It was suggested that we imagine that we have been asked to draft a section for the Book of Common Prayer. Turning to page 810 in the BCP we will discover that there are 72 prayers that ask for things and you have to go all the way to page 836 to find 11 prayers of thanksgiving. If we want to practice an attitude of gratitude, if we want to give thanks to God, we might consider writing more prayers of thanksgiving. It would be wonderful if we could write enough prayers of thanksgiving so that they are at least equal to the number of bidding prayers. And if we do not want to wait for the next version of the Book of Common Prayer, we could even self-publish our own Church of the Incarnation Book of Thanksgiving Prayers.
Writing prayers of thanksgiving helps us to practice being grateful. Practicing gratitude helps us to see and understand what God is doing in our lives. An attitude of gratitude reminds us that goodness abounds and that even during great suffering and despair God is present and offering healing, hope and compassion.
I can say this to you as one who has been healed in so many ways by God. Sometimes that healing came when people were praying for me when I had cancer. Sometimes the healing came because people were willing to let God work through them and they gave me a much-needed hug or listened when I needed to talk. Sometimes the healing arrived in a meditation as I listened to lovely recorded voices that reminded me to surrender to God’s love. All I know is that when I needed it most, God always provided the healer and the healing. And for that, I am truly grateful. Thanks Mom, for reminding me to write this note.