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Reflections on the Sunday lectionary readings

The Thankless 90%

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Psalm 66:1-12  •  2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c and Psalm 111  •  2 Timothy 2:8-15  •  Luke 17:11-19

 

    Today's reading from Luke begins with Jesus and his crew, travelling to Jerusalem. It's a simple story. On the way, ten lepers approach and beg to be healed. Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priest, a local community requirement related to infectious disease control. While heading to the priest, they are healed. Of the ten, one stops and goes back to Jesus to give thanks. Jesus, first noting that this person is a foreigner – from a much looked-down-upon part of the world – tells him to go on his way, crediting his faith for making him well.

 

    I wonder what happened to the other nine – the thankless 90%. After they had been to the priest, then did they think to give thanks? Did they tell the story of how it happened, to include Jesus as the healer; or did they come to see it differently, as a coincidence? Did the difficulties of the years of living with their illness stay with them? Did their healing fade from their memory, as they went back into the challenges of daily living? And did they stay well?

 

    In a way, the thankless 90% returned home basically unchanged, except for a surface healing of an underlying condition. The story in second Kings chapter five also starts with a person in need of healing from a skin condition. Naaman, at the beginning of the story, is clearly in danger of becoming part of the 90%. He sees healing as a transaction, bringing plenty of currency to purchase his cure. Elisha, though, sees healing as a gift: a gift available to a person humble enough to go wash seven times in a muddy river.  

 

    Life can be a humbling experience.  Naaman had one lesson in humility when he heard through his wife's servant about a prophet in Israel, one who could heal. But he failed the test on this lesson, when he showed up in Israel ready to pay for the healing. His next lesson came from his servants, with him on the trip, who convince him to bathe in the Jordan river. The servants, not the master, were able to take the long view, while he was stuck in a singularly unhelpful, isolated perspective regarding his own dilemma. By the end of the story, he is seeing a much bigger picture of the world and his own small place in it.

 

    Most of the time – nine times out of ten, maybe – a person cannot see the bigger picture of his or her life. An early warning sign of the problem is the lack of gratitude towards others. A more reality-based perspective, like that of the leper who returned to thank Jesus, comes with staying connected to others. In the end, regardless of one's own gifts and talents or lack thereof, humility and its cousin, gratitude, simply make sense.

 

For reflection:

Morning: Who am I grateful for today? How can I express my gratitude?

Evening: What do I have to be grateful for today? Where can I see a bigger picture of those who have contributed to my life?

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