Homily, Generous with Gratitude
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23C, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Readings:
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
2 Timothy 2:8-15
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So…there was a Samaritan, a Widow, and two Tax Collectors walking down the street…. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? Ah, but it’s not! It’s the beginning of a sermon series!
Four people. Four stories. Four lessons about what it means to live a life of generosity.
For the next four weeks I invite you to go on a journey with me to meet these four individuals, to hear their stories, and to reflect on our own lives and generosity.
As you came in this morning you were given the gift of a journal. These will be our tools for taking this journey and I invite you to engage these stories in whatever way you feel led. As I preach you may want to take notes, or doodle. Perhaps you’ll want to sketch a picture of the individual and their story.
But each week at the end of the homily I will give you two prompts. I invite you to write them down in your journal and spend some time in the coming week journaling about it. You may want to spend a little time each day, or maybe every other day, or perhaps just once in the week. But use the journal as a tool to connect the stories of these four individuals with your own story, and then bring it back next week for the next part. Let these journals be our tools for listening to the voice of God’s Spirit speaking to us.
Four people. Four stories. Four lessons on Generosity.
And so we begin our series.
When have you experienced the generosity of God, and how did you respond?
Today we hear the story of a Samaritan man with leprosy. We don’t know his full story. We don’t know his name or how long he suffered from his illness, but we can imagine the pain he must have experienced. Leprosy in those days was not a treatable or manageable skin condition, but a curse on life.
Not only would this man have had to deal with caring for his own fragile body, he was severed from society—forced to live on the outskirts of town—unable to have meaningful relationships with people outside of his little community of nine others with leprosy. You can imagine the pain of having to leave family behind. Of no longer being able to work. Of experiencing the loss of meaning and purpose in life.
And it is in this context that this man and his small community of outcasts encountered Jesus along the road and found healing. They had heard of Jesus and his compassion and his divine gift for healing and so when they met him they cried out for mercy. And they found it. As they went on their way their skin became clean.
But here comes the interesting part. While the other nine in this man’s community continued on their way, the Samaritan man stopped, went back praising God, fell at Jesus’ feet, and thanked him. He thanked him.
When we read this part of the story we all have a clear question, and it’s the question of Jesus as well: where are the other nine? Why did they not respond to the generosity of God in the same way?
And this, for us, is a pivotal question, because the literary implication for the reader is to ask themselves, who am I in this story? Am I more like the nine who went on their way or am I like the Samaritan man who responded to God’s generosity with gratitude?
And in order to answer the question, we have to be able understand why the Samaritan man responded and why the other nine continued on their way. What can we learn from this Samaritan man?
I think our biggest clue is in the Greek word horao: to see. In ancient Greek there are a few words for seeing, the most basic of which is blepo. The word blepo normally refers to the function of seeing with the eye. The literal act of seeing. But Horao, on the other hand, means not only to simply see with the eye, but to perceive. To take in what one is seeing.
That is the word used twice here in this passage. The first time, it’s used when Jesus sees the 10 with leprosy. He doesn’t just see them with his eyes, he takes notice of them. He sees them deeply. He perceives their need.
The second time, horao is used when the Samaritan man sees that he has been healed. He doesn’t just look, he sees. He perceives. He takes in his healing. And in taking it in he sees that the true essence of this experience is the generosity of God.
Perhaps what makes the Samaritan man stand apart is that he took the time to really see his blessing. And in seeing his blessing, he gave thanks for it. And in giving thanks for it, he saw it all the more.
Gratitude is an act of seeing. The practice of gratitude is the practice of slowing down and seeing the generosity of God in our lives. Without gratitude, we take what we have for granted.
Perhaps that is what happened to the other nine who were healed. Perhaps their response was simply too utilitarian—too focused on how they might use their healing without taking the time to be grateful for their healing. I’m sure they were very happy when they realized they were healed, but perhaps their minds immediately went to pragmatic places. “What should I do with this healing? I can go find a job now! I can go find my family! I can go eat my favorite food! I can go do this or that. The things I’ve been wanting to do.” And they didn’t stop first to practice gratitude. And likewise, sometimes we get so caught up in using what we receive from God in ways that benefit us that we take what we receive for granted.
Another word for this is entitlement. Entitlement is the opposite of gratitude. Entitlement says, “this thing belongs to me.” Gratitude says, “this gift comes from God.”
Which is exactly what we say in our Generosity Statement here at Good Shepherd, “All we are and all we have come from God.”
So what can we learn about generosity from the story of this Samaritan man? We learn to be generous with our gratitude just as God has been generous to us. “Generosity is our response to God’s unconditional love and an expression of our gratitude.”
And if we open our eyes to see—to really see—to perceive—we will find that there is so much for which to be grateful in this world. From the beauty of a tree to the food on our table, from the love of a relationship to the protection of a home, from the lessons of life to the healing of God, there is so much for which we can open our eyes and be grateful.
So get your journals ready, here come your prompts. Just as the Samaritan man stopped what he was doing to take time for seeing and being grateful, I am inviting us to take time this week to see and to be grateful.
Here are your two prompts:
- Where in my life do I see but not perceive? That one’s about entitlement. Where have I shown entitlement?
- Where in my life is an opportunity to see and be grateful? That one’s about gratitude. What am I grateful for?
So take some time this week to journal on those two questions. And as you do may we find ourselves generous in our gratitude just as God has been generous to us. Amen.