back...giving him thanks”
and giving thanks we are made whole. Such is salvation. It is also our
freedom. The burden of thanksgiving, we might say, is precisely our
freedom. It is our freedom in Christ.
The giving of
thanks cannot be coerced. In the story of the ten lepers, one - and only
one, Jesus is at pains to remind us - returned to give thanks. All were
healed but only the one who returned and gave thanks is said to be made
whole. His returning is a free act by which he signals that he is more than
just the recipient of an healing act. He acknowledges the God who heals and
restores, the God who has mercy and saves.
And one of them when he saw
that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and
fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks.
and giving thanks puts him in the presence of Christ in his love for the
Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit. Thus he enters into the radical
meaning of his healing. Its radical meaning is that our ultimate good for
both soul and body is found in the presence of Christ in his will for us.
and giving thanks, he enters into the very motions of God’s love towards us
in Christ Jesus. The reciprocity of divine love is the life of the Trinity
opened to view in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. In the giving of
thanks he wills what God wills for us. Salvation is not otherwise.
and giving thanks is not something commanded. It is not coerced.
Thanksgiving is not thanksgiving at all if it is forced. It is freely given
or it is not thanksgiving at all. Thanksgiving is at once totally our doing
and yet totally God’s doing in us. God’s grace in us is our freedom. It is
our freedom to will what God wills for us. God will not have it any other
Our thanks to
God and to one another for whatever we have received is a free act. But we
also think of it as an obligation, something we owe to one another. It has
the quality of necessity about it as well. And so it is. Our freedom lies
in the necessity, in our accepting that necessity as what is proper to us,
as true to whom we properly are, as belonging, in fact, to the God-given
dignity of our humanity.
That we can
return and give thanks is the free acknowledgement that there is someone to
whom we can return and give thanks. Even more, it participates in something
more wonderful and profounder. Our giving thanks to God participates in the
Son’s thanksgiving to the Father in the Spirit of their mutual and perfect
love. Thanksgiving is at the heart of the Christian gospel and so it is at
the heart of the Christian life, to our “walking in the spirit”.
thanksgiving captures something of the meaning of the Son whose whole life,
eternal and incarnate, is oriented towards the Father. In our returning and
giving thanks we participate in the Son’s thanksgiving to the Father in the
bond of the Holy Spirit.
Last Sunday the
Gospel presented us with The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Here in
this Gospel the one who returns and gave thanks is, once again, a
Samaritan. The simple point is that the Samaritans were outsiders - the
despised and the rejected of the Jewish culture. They become in the Gospel
the very examples of the love of God which has reached beyond the barriers
of human divisions and come near to us and which becomes actual in us,
moving our hearts and souls whither they would not be moved before. There
is no inside track to God. Salvation is not genetically possessed nor is it
a denominational possession. No. It can only be what is freely entered
upon because of what has been freely given. The task for us as members of
the body of Christ is to will what we have been given to see and know, to
love and praise; in short, to return and give thanks.
actions may seem a trifle excessive and yet his actions belong precisely to
the very character of our patterns of worship, to prayer and praise. Our
liturgy would have us fall on our knees and call out for mercy in the free
acknowledgement of the mercy that has been shown to us in Christ Jesus.
There, in him, we see the extravagant, indeed, the excessive love, the love
that is more than love, the love that reaches down and enters in that we may
be raised up, healed, restored, forgiven and set in motion, the same motions
of love compelling us.
For in the free
act of thanksgiving we do not and cannot presume upon ourselves but only
upon the mercy of God in Jesus Christ who seeks not only our healing but our
wholeness - our being truly and wholly in him and he in us. This is what we
pray for before Communion in The Prayer of Humble Access. After
receiving the Sacrament, we don’t simply rush out the door. No. Like the
Samaritan in today’s Gospel we return to our pews to give thanks in The
Prayer of Thanksgiving which follows The Lord’s Prayer, and then
we stand “to give glory to God” in the Gloria. Such is the
burden of thanksgiving. Such is our freedom. We enter into the glory that
has been revealed.
We are caught
up, as Jeremy Taylor puts it, in “the amiable captivity of the Spirit”.
It is our freedom to be so caught up. We are called to “walk in the
spirit” at once “bearing one another’s burdens” and so fulfilling
the law of Christ - his life forming the pattern of our lives - but also
“bearing our own burdens”, the burdens of thanksgiving, it seems to me.
That seeming paradox is the quality of the Son’s thanksgiving at work in us
in our loving service towards one another through our love towards God. We
are set in motion by the love that has been shown to us - in motion towards
the stranger and the friend and in motion towards God. Such is the love of
God at work in us. It belongs to our freedom and our dignity; the freedom
to return and give thanks to the God who has turned to us. Thanksgiving is
our freedom and our salvation.
back... giving him thanks”