The Ground of Our Gratitude

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.’
— Luke 17:11-19, NRSV

This Sunday’s gospel reading confronts us with how, and when, we give gratitude to God. It’s an important topic, but at the same time it’s one that can be reduced to platitudes. We need to be clear about when we are grateful, for what, and to whom. 

Each Sunday, as we come to the altar, we’re reminded that giving thanks is itself a gift of grace: free and undeserved and astonishing.  Here, today — and every Sunday — we’re reminded that on the night before his crucifixion, at a somber dinner, at his darkest moment, with his betrayer at hand, his closest friends confounded, and with Roman soldiers gathering up their arms to arrest him - that at such a time as this, Jesus gives thanks. And then he tells us to do the same. And two thousand years later, the fact that we do so is one of the essential markers that makes the Church the Church.  

It’s only human that we usually think of gratitude to God when things are going well, when we've benefited, when the sun is shining and life is easy, and not when we’re anxious or fearful. But even as he looks towards the darkest moments of his life, Jesus gives thanks.  As the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said, “It is as if he is connecting the darkest places of human experience with God the Giver; as if he is saying that even in these dark places, God continues to give.”

God is active — everywhere, all the time — and Jesus Christ is really present in the bread and in the wine. Could it be that if we can see the Lord there, if we can taste God’s presence in those simple material things, then we might learn to see the Lord out in all the world where we live day to day?

Could it be that we receive the grace to see Him there not just on the best days, but in the worst, in the storm, in the blackest of night. We come to the table to give thanks, called once more to receive the gift to see our lives and the lives of our neighbors as gift, especially in times like these when the world around us is saying something very different.

As Rowan Williams reminds us, “We take Holy Communion not because we are doing well, but because we are doing badly. Not because we have arrived, but because we are still travelling. Not because we are right, but because we are confused. Not because we are full, but because we are hungry.”

This and none other is the ground of our gratitude. Join me this Sunday to find out more! 

Yours faithfully in Christ, 

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Kara N. Slade
Associate Rector for Operations & Discipleship

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