Homily 385 – 25th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 8, 2019
Epistle: (224) Ephesians 4:1-6
Gospel: (85) Luke 17:12-19
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
We’ve just come through our annual Thanksgiving holiday. Most of us, I think quite sincerely, offer thanks to God and to one another for every blessing we have been given.
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear of the 10 lepers that were healed, and how one returned to give thanks. Now, I’m convinced that all of the lepers were thankful. So why did only one return?
There is a little phrase in the Gospel account – “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back …”
And I wonder – do we recognize our own healing?
Most of us, perhaps we are one of the 10% who did. Or maybe we’re part of the 90% that didn’t.
We may get it in our head what healing looks like. What the answer to prayer looks like.
I’m reminded of an old joke about the man on his rooftop during a flood. A boat approaches and tells him to get aboard, and the man says “No thanks, God will save me.”
A helicopter arrives and lowers a rope, and the man waves them away, saying “No thanks, God will save me.”
And then the man drowns, and when he gets to heaven he asks God why didn’t you save me?
To which God replies, “I sent a boat and a helicopter!”
Obviously the man envisioned a rescue as something different.
Many times it is because we only see one way out of a situation. We put constraints on problem solving.
I have to have a job that will pay the mortgage I have. I have to have the money to repair my car. Or to buy a new car. The old song – Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
Sometimes those things happen that way. It is important, though, to look not at the task, but at the objective.
We don’t need money for a mortgage payment, it is shelter from the elements that we need.
It isn’t a new car, or even a repaired car, but rather it is transportation we need.
In many cases what we ask for isn’t what we need, because what we ask for is control. “Do this my way, God.” We even say “Please and Thank you.”
In my mind, the surest way to mess up is to give me control. God’s will and God’s desire is so much bigger than mine, so much more comprehensive. To give control to an individual is to offer an eyedropper and challenge the individual to make sea level rise.
Another old saying – if you want God to laugh, tell Him your plans.
Personally, I’ve adopted the prayer that Thomas Merton records:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this You will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.
The Elders of the Optina Monastery in Russia offer some similar thoughts in their prayer:
O Lord, I do not know what to ask of you. You alone know what my true needs are. You love me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on you. My heart is open to you. Visit and help me, for your great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence your holy will and your inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to you. I put all my trust in you. I have no other desire than to fulfill your will. Teach me to pray. Pray yourself in me. Teach me to treat whatever may happen to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you.
Beloved, the worship of God and the right relationship with God begins in Thanksgiving. Just like the one who returned, we should examine our lives and be thankful for what we have, instead of asking for what we don’t have.
Certainly make known your needs to God – for He already knows them. Unlike the televangelists, though, there is no need to be specific as to how God should answer them. After all, God will give us what is good and holy.
This morning, He gives us Himself – the Body and Blood of Christ – for our salvation and healing.
When we receive it, when we are in the presence of the Creator God – don’t forget to give thanks.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!