Gratitude and Ingratitude   1 comment

Image Source = Infrogmation of New Orleans

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GuadalupeNOLA15Oct07Thanks.jpg)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Wisdom of Solomon 6:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Hear then, you kings, take this to heart; lords of the wide world, learn this lesson; give ear, you rulers of the multitude, who take pride in myriads of your people.  Your authority was bestowed on you by the Lord, your power comes from the Most High.  He will probe your actions and scrutinize your intentions.  Though you are servants appointed by the King, you have not been upright judges; you have not maintained the law or guided your steps by the will of God.  Swiftly and terribly he will descend on you, for judgement falls relentlessly on those in high places.  The lowest may find pity and forgiveness, but those in power will be called powerfully to account; for he who is Master of all is obsequious to none, and shows no deference to greatness.  Small and great alike are of his making, and all are under his providence equally; but it is for those who wield authority that he reserves the sternest inquisition.  To you, then, who have absolute power I speak, in hope that you may learn wisdom and not go astray; those who in holiness have kept a holy course will be accounted holy, and those who have learnt that lesson will be able to make their defence.  Therefore be eager to hear me; long for my teaching, and you will learn.

Psalm 2 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Why are the nations in an uproar?

Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?

2  Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt,

and the princes plot together,

against the LORD and against his Anointed?

3  ”Let us break their yoke,” they say;

“let us cast off their bonds from us.”

4  He whose throne is in heaven is laughing;

the LORD has them in derision.

5  Then he speaks to them in his wrath,

and his rage fills them with terror.

6  ”I myself have set my king

upon my holy hill of Zion.”

7  Let me announce the decree of the LORD:

he said to me, “You are my Son;

this day I have begotten you.

8  Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance

and the ends of the earth for your possession.

9  You shall crush them with an iron rod

and shatter them like a piece of pottery.

10  And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

11  Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

12  Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

13  Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

Luke 17:11-19 (Revised English Bible):

In the course of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem he was travelling through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village he was met by ten men with leprosy.  They stood some way off, and called out to him,

Jesus, Master, take pity on us.

When he saw them he said,

Go and show yourselves to the priests;

and while they were on the way, they were made clean.  One of them, finding himself cured, turned back with shouts of praise to God.  He threw himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan.  At this Jesus said:

Were not all then made clean?  The other nine, where are they?  Was  no one found returning to give praise to God except this foreigner?

And he said to the man,

Stand up and go on your way; your faith has cured you.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Leprosy, in the Bible, is a very broad term referring to a variety of skin diseases and to Hanson’s Disease.  I mention this for the sake of accuracy, with one caveat:  that is not germane to my main point.  Biblical leprosy, whatever we might call it today in medical terms, made one an outcast.  So, aside from the medical condition, there were serious emotional, spiritual, and psychological to consider.  It is difficult to be an outcast, given that we humans are inherently social beings.  To be cut off from one’s relatives, friends, and acquaintances because of a condition over which one has no control is a reality many people have had to face over time.

So Jesus, when he cured the ten lepers, did far more than heal them physically; he restored them to society.  This was a tremendous gift, so why did only one–and a Samaritan at that–return to render verbal thanks?  I propose that the other nine were so overjoyed that they were in a hurry to return to their homes, relatives, and friends.

The text does not state explicitly that the other nine lepers were Jews, but it does make a point of the one who said “thank you” being a Samaritan.  There had long been bad blood between Samaritans and Jews.  Samaritans were of mixed Hebrew-Assyrian ancestry, dating back centuries, when the Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom, Israel.  The Samaritans used (and still use) a truncated Bible, the Torah, in fact.  And they prayed (and still do) on Mount Gerizim, not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Samaritans had opposed actively the construction of the Second Temple after the Persian Empire permitted exiled Jews to return to their ancestral homeland.

The original audience for the Gospel of Luke consisted of Gentiles, so it is no accident that an account favorable to a Samaritan is so prominent in that book.   The message is plain:  Whether one is a Jew, a Samaritan, or a member of a different group is irrelevant; what matters is how we respond to Jesus.  And we can start by saying “thank you.”  Then actions must follow.  They will vary according to who, when, and where we are, as well as the talents and skills we bring to our circumstances, which are not entirely under our control.  But God will have assignments for us; may we obey them.

Speaking of assignments…

There used to be a prominent political theory according to which kings ruled as demigods.  ”I am related to the god or goddess (insert name here),” they said; “obey me.”  Think of the Pharaohs of Egypt, many of the Roman Emperors, the Merovingian Dynasty in France, for example.  The Merovingians had an especially audacious claim; they said they were descended from Jesus.  Then there was the Divine Right of Kings, by which monarchs asserted that God had given them power, with the same consequence:  ”Obey me, or sin.  Do not try to overthrow the system.”  As an American, I am a happy heir to the Enlightenment understanding of political authority which John Locke explained after the Glorious Revolution of 1688:  The right to govern flows from the consent of the governed.

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon lived and died a very long time before the Enlightenment, so I do not expect to find a democratic treatise in his work.  Yet his basic point is timeless:  With great power comes great responsibility.  Wielding authority carries the duty to govern wisely, for the common good, and to work for social justice.  The kings of which the author of the Wisdom of Solomon writes have failed on all these counts.  The grateful action God requires of them is to govern well, and they have not done so.  God will therefore call them to account.

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon reminds us:

Small and great alike are of his [God’s] making, and all are under his providence equally.

Again and again in the Bible God becomes quite angry about mistreatment of the poor, the marginal, and other vulnerable people.  One way of responding to God out of gratitude is obeying the divine command to treat others as one would them to treat one’s self.  Or, as Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

I maintain my devotional blogs for several reasons.  Among them is this:  to contribute something, no matter how relatively small, positive and uplifting to the Internet.  God has blessed me in many ways, including my education, my intellect, and my spiritual inclinations.  They merge inside my brain and demand an outlet.  Yes, I tell God “thank you” often in private.  And, again and again, I return to my self-imposed devotional writing schedule.  I grow from the exercise and hope and pray that you, O reader, derive positive benefit, too.

Here is your takeaway:  What will gratitude require of you?  May you perceive God’s answer to that question and follow the instructions.

Pax vobiscum.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-wednesday-year-1/

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One response to “Gratitude and Ingratitude

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 27: Wednesday, Year 1 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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