(Posted October 10, 2016)
“"If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough."
This statement by the great 13th century theologian Meister Eckhart should be a constant reminder that God doesn’t expect or need a huge fanfare of rite and ritual in order to prove our faith or for our prayer to be heard. All he requests is our simple hearts.
Fifteen years ago when I was with Visiting Nurse Services, there was one patient that I visited who to this day sticks out in my memory. “Charles” was pretty much housebound. The confines of his four walls delineated the borders of his world, and the distance that his wheelchair could travel. But few other of our patients were as joyful and at peace with their world than Charles.
You see, one day Charles confided to me how he ended every day. He had a little notebook bedside on his nightstand. On this notebook he listed every single person and thing that had made him a little happier that day, or who had taken away his loneliness. At the very end of the evening, before he closed his eyes, he took that list, read it through and said a prayer of gratitude for each of the people who shaped his day. Very often, he fell asleep before finishing his ritual of thanks.
The peace that Charles found in his bedtime ritual is a flower that blooms from the seed of gratitude he planted each night. It is a state of wholeness.
This Sunday we will read about the ten lepers that came to Jesus to be healed. When he instructs them to go show themselves to the priests in the temple, on that journey they are healed. They all rejoiced but one, and only one, returned to Jesus to thank him. He threw himself at his feet in gratitude. Interestingly enough all the other nine were Jews. But this one man, full of thanks, was a Samaritan, the despised group of people considered foreigners, nonbelievers, pagans. Jesus tells him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”
What does it mean to be Faithful? What does it mean to be “well”? Unfortunately, many of us Christians think of faith as cause and effect. In other words, if I have faith, I will be cured. And if I’m not cured, it has to mean that I’m not praying hard enough. Of course, we all know it doesn’t work that way. Faith is something we do. Faith is lived. It is a wellness beyond the physical that Jesus offered to the grateful Samaritan. The other nine may be physically well and probably thought they deserved it. But this man realizes the gift that Jesus has given him, and, beyond physical healing, he is truly WHOLE. When I think of wholeness in the face of infirmity, I think of Charles. Charles was whole, even if not cured.
This Sunday we will take a look at some people who have overcome tremendous adversity to be the whole people they are today. Come and join us in this exploration. – Pastor Pat Kriss