Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Thanks for the memories


"As he entered a village, 10 lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priest.’ 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 10 made clean? But the other nine, where are they?’"—Luke 17:12-17


By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

On your mark, runners! Get set. Go! This is the time of year many Americans run every direction, dashing through a hectic holiday marathon. People kick into high gear, zooming past Thanksgiving Day, stumbling into Christmas, and collapsing a few days into the new year.

It seems only in my memories that the fourth Thursday in November ushers in a time of reflection and true thanksgiving across America. That national holiday once marked the beginning of a season that brought out the best we had to give, simply because we had received so much from a loving God who had blessed us in spite of ourselves.

Whatever happened to those times? Today, when you sit down at Thanksgiving—or any meal—do you recall God’s presence in your life?

One man remembers

The Scripture passage tells of the time when Jesus was stopped by 10 men who had been isolated from their community. The men were viewed as public health threats. They had obviously heard of Jesus, and they wanted his help.

When the men crossed Jesus’ path, he gave them instructions to go to a priest. In that culture, the priest was the only person with the authority to declare the men free of disease. On their way to see the priest, something happened to the men. They were suddenly healed!

Nine of the 10 ran on, undoubtedly celebrating and rejoicing.

But there was one who remembered.

Maybe the nine were too busy to express gratitude to the one who initiated the healing. Maybe they intended to do it later and just never got around to it.

Whatever the case, only one man took the time to return and thank Jesus—and in that moment of reflection (memory), his life changed. Some translations of the New Testament verses record Jesus saying, "Go your way, your faith has made you whole!"

Do you notice the difference? They all were healed—but the one who came back was made whole.

You can make this Thanksgiving Day different from other mad dashes to the finish lines of frenzied living. You can recapture the true spirit of this precious and significant time that affords you an opportunity to be made whole.

Quality and insight

First of all, thanksgiving is a mark of quality in a person. The Scripture writer proclaims, "It is a good thing to give thanks."

True gratitude is wholly voluntary and optional. No one can force another person to be thankful. It is not on the statute books of any state; it is not one of the Ten Commandments. Consider it an elective, if you will, in the great school of life.

An attitude of grateful appreciation separates you from those who are too busy to remember. It conveys the richness of God’s mercy to you and reminds you that, all through the year, sins have been forgiven, diseases have received healing, and constant love has been present each and every day.

Secondly, appreciation takes more than sight; it also calls for insight. Expressing thankfulness is the mark of the discriminating person who endures not merely by the visible but also by the invisible values of life.

Author Russell H. Cornwell put it this way: "We are all living on acres of diamonds, but we don’t have the wits to know it, usually, because we lack the insight to see it.

I often tell the story of the farmer who had decided to sell his place. He had grown weary of trying to make ends meet, so he called a real estate agent to place a "for sale" ad in the newspaper.

The agent wanted to identify the selling points for the farm. He even traveled out to the land and took several pictures. In a few days, he had an advertisement ready, and he called to check it with the owner.

The agent read aloud his draft for the ad, taking great pains to mention a babbling brook that ran through the property, the wonderful fields of grain and healthy livestock, and other positive selling points. When he completed reading the list, the farmer asked him to read it again.

After hearing the advertisement the second time, the farmer told the real estate agent that he had changed his mind about selling his farm.

The agent asked why, and the farmer replied, "I’ve wanted a farm like that all my life. I think I’ll keep it."

Harold Englund wrote: "Christian thanksgiving is a vertical relationship between the believer and God. It belongs to the noble family called Prayer, and it is the twin brother of Praise. It recognizes that a blessing is a gift, and then it raises its attention from the gift to the Giver. Thanksgiving is therefore always response, for the Giver of every good and perfect gift takes the initiative."

This Thanksgiving, respond to God’s blessings by remembering what God has done and, in remembering, go back as the leper did—to be made whole!



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