Foundation of thanks.
Homily 337 – 28th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 9, 2018
Epistle: (250) Colossians 1:12-18 and (210-ctr) Galatians 4:22-31 (Conception MG)
Gospel: (85) Luke 17:12-19 and (36) Luke 8:16-21 (Conception MG)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Our lives begin with giving thanks. It is the only response to this life. Period.
Everything we see, touch, hear – everything that is – is a gift of God, an expression of God’s love. And there can be only one response to that gift.
Giving thanks is the foundation of all other virtues. And not just all virtues, but everything that is.
The cosmos exists as thanksgiving to the Creator. Had Adam and Eve in the garden given thanks instead of going their own way, perhaps humanity would not have fallen.
And if we don’t give thanks, the need for repentance will surely follow.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds shouted “Hosannah”. And the Jewish leadership told Jesus to tell the crowds to be quiet.
And Jesus refused, saying that if the people were quiet, the very earth itself – the stones and the trees and everything in creation – would shout and cry out in thanksgiving.
In the account of the ten lepers, 9 followed the commandment given them, to the letter. They went to the priests straight away.
The one – a foreigner, a Samaritan, returned to offer thanks to God.
The nine chose to adhere to the command they had been given, instead of the higher law of gratitude – of thanksgiving.
Again, can we not see that obedience isn’t enough? That following the commandment isn’t enough?
It was the foreigner – the Samaritan – who returned, and that tells us something. The Samaritans couldn’t count on salvation. They were not the chosen people of God.
We are also Samaritans. We also are not the chosen people of God – at least not by birth.
We are chosen by Grace, and by Faith. The Jewish nation were the people of God through birthright. That birthright claim comes with expectations.
Not so with the Samaritans. Any kindness received from the Creator was a true blessing that they did not expect.
And so – their gratitude was greater. And, as we see with the Samaritan woman also, their faith was greater.
As we who are adopted, the non-Jews, the Gentiles, should also have no expectations and offer gratitude for even the crumbs which fall from our Master’s table.
Our Lord is indeed gracious to us. And yet we have to be careful not to take that grace, that graciousness, for granted.
The best strategy for not taking things for granted is to offer thanks for everything.
Rising for another day. The love of God for His Creation, which includes us. The prayers and examples of the saints.
And the mundane – thank you God for the rock in my shoe. Thank you, Lord, for the food we eat. For the water we drink. For the person who cut me off in traffic, or the bus driver that pulled away as I got to the stop, running.
Because everything is God’s will, and everything is for our benefit. Everything, and that means regardless of how we feel about it.
And so, in everything we give thanks. Because this is the will of God.
We don’t evaluate. We give thanks. Just as the Samaritan healed of leprosy gave thanks.
How do we show gratitude to one another? We offer gifts, kind words, service.
How much more so should we offer to God our Creator and Healer?
Everything begins with thanksgiving – with eucharist.
Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” And Liturgy means “the work of the people”.
Our work is thanksgiving.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!