I first learned the power of gratitude as a young boy at a theater performance. The playbill was so carefully scripted – except, it turned out, for one thing that happened at the very end. As the curtain dropped and the stage lights dimmed, the audience spontaneously sprang to its feet with a thunderous applause and great cheers. The actors undoubtedly needed to hear our gratitude, but what brought us to our feet was our need to express gratitude. Expressing gratitude completes the experience.
I could be confused, but I think I remember that the guidelines for a proper celebration of Thanksgiving Day call for “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.” It’s either Thanksgiving or weddings …perhaps I’m very confused…
In any event, I’ve brought something old with me to the ambo today—an old sermon. I’ve even printed it out in the Goudy Old Style font. Actually this sermon is only four years old—but lots can happen in four years. So, with your permission I will now quote myself and leave the new, the borrowed and the blue to you.
Catalina Island is 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. A Christian camp there, Campus by the Sea, is one of my very favorite places which grew up visiting frequently. After seminary, I spent over a year living there on the beach in the small, isolated staff community, who are caretakers of a sacred space and hosts to many coming for spiritual retreat. Camp nurtured my gifts for hospitality and service, valuing simplicity and honoring God in mundane work, preparing me for monastic life.
During my year on staff, there was a major wildfire on Catalina. It spread to ridges surrounding our camp causing us to quickly evacuate our guests and ourselves by boat to Catalina’s town. We finally left the island late that night with the eery sight of flames amid the darkness near camp. We huddled together in prayer and song, fearing the loss of our sacred place and home.
In the gospel according to Luke we read that Jesus was approached by ten lepers. They asked to be cured. Jesus cured them all, but only one said thank you. Ten were cured by Jesus. And only one leper, a Samaritan, turned back to Jesus and kneeling at his feet, thanked him and praised God with a loud voice.