First Reading Deuteronomy 8:7-18
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and praise the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid waste-land with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant.
The Word of our Lord.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. Amen.
Second Reading Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
The Word of our Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 17:11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ 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 ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This very Thursday is Thanksgiving. And so the all too brief season of Thanksgiving and giving God thanks is upon us.
Have you ever noticed how hard it is for us to stay grateful for anything for very long?
Scientists have studied this tendency pretty extensively. They call it the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaptation. Simply put – we humans adapt to the good stuff in our lives. We get used to the things we already have really quickly and then start to take them for granted. We excel at being completely and utterly blind to our blessings.
We ALL do it with the blessings in our lives. Think about that spouse you were so taken with when you were dating. You were dazzled and enchanted. Everything she said made you smile. You couldn’t wait to spend the rest of your life together. You wore a fancy suit and pledged eternal vows before God and your family and friends to love and support and maybe even obey her forever and ever and ever. And now you just wish she would stop talking long enough to let you watch the football game in peace and quiet . . . And maybe the same goes for your adorable kids and grandkids too!
Or the house that was so perfectly – gloriously lovely on the day you found it. You were thrilled and delighted by it. But now that you have been living there a while. Well honestly – it feels a bit small and the kitchen needs some updating and you wish it had another bathroom and there just aren’t enough closets. Actually every single room in the entire house is just too small!
And your cell phone – think about how pathetically lame that is. You cell phone became a hunk of outdated junk about 2 seconds after it came out of the box!
Our very human brains are always seeking what we perceive to be the brighter and the better and the shinier. And it certainly isn’t what we already have. Nope – it ALWAYS needs to be new and fresh for us to like and appreciate it.
BUT as soon as we have something in our lives – we start to get used to it. And once we get used to it – we value it less. We – human beings – just can’t stay grateful for anything for very long.
The Bible is full of stories of hedonic adaptation.
Think of Exodus and the way the Chosen People acted. Sometimes their behavior actually shocks us. They seem so blind to God’s generous gifts to them. They complain about everything from the food they are given to eat to the amount of water they are given to drink in the desert. They also complain about how God makes his very presence known to them. Even Moses’ glowing face upsets them. These people find something to complain about in everything. They are shockingly ungrateful. They even consider returning to lives of slavery and oppression because they liked the food better! Seriously!?!?!?!
But upon some deeper reflection – we know we are just like the Chosen People – aren’t we? We too struggle with gratitude. We too struggle to remember in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to pause to count our blessings and to give God thanks.
Human beings tend to be a selfish – self-centered lot.
Gratitude doesn’t always flow from us. We have to work at gratitude.
Remembering to say thank you is hard for us even under the best circumstances.
And the times we are living through really aren’t the best of circumstances.
Because – this wretched pandemic has lingered and loitered and hung on and just plain worn out its welcome. We are fed up. It feels like our world has been turned upside down and inside out – over and over and over again.
And yet – we are blessed. Our God has continued to bless each and every one of us. We might have to dig a bit deeper these days to see it – but for most of us – we don’t have to look too far to be tripping over blessings. We are all deeply and abundantly blessed. Wildly and wonderfully blessed.
And so – I ask you – even now – even in the midst of this wretchedly stressful time in most of our lives – to think deeply about the many ways our Lord blesses you each and every day of your life.
Who are the blessings in your life? Who makes your life sweeter – better – more fun? Who helps you get through those tough days? Who listens? Who is there for you to lean on and rely on? Who laughs with you? Who shares this journey with you? For whom are you grateful? For whom do you give God thanks?
What are the blessings in your lives? (Don’t think about what needs to be fixed or what could be better or what you don’t like. Don’t make a list of complaints. Most folks do way – way too much of that!) Instead – think of the blessings in your lives. Think grateful thoughts. Think about what is good – maybe even delightful in your life.
Now write it down. Seriously – write it down. (You all have the supplies for writing down blessings this morning. And after you have written them down – if you leave them on your chair – I will hang them up as a reminder to all of us in the weeks to come of God’s abundant blessings to us.)
Let’s share our blessings with one another. Let’s remind ourselves that we are blessed and let’s give God thanks for some of those incredible blessings he showers on us each and every single moment of our lives.
It is incredibly easy to forget to say thank you to God for all of the ways he has blessed us.
It is easy to take God’s blessing to us for granted.
So today – let’s remember to thank God for the many ways he has blessed us. Thank God for the big blessings in your life – but also for the small blessings. Because God has blessed all of us abundantly.
We are blessed. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.