Nov 19, 2021.
We are a week away from thanksgiving, when we will be gathering as family and friends to laugh, eat, and watch football. It is also the time when most families offer the deepest prayers of gratitude they will pray all year. And that is meaningful.
#JesusStories: One day as Jesus was walking into a village near Samaria, ten men who had leprosy met him and asked for healing (Luke 17). Rather than praying over them, Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priests, which was the protocol for lepers to be taken off the ‘unclean list’. As the men turned to go, their leprous spots and disfigurements disappeared before everyone’s eyes. That must have been some sight; it surely impressed Dr. Luke who recorded it in his gospel. The next scene is one of the lepers returning to Jesus, face in the dirt in humble thanksgiving for the miracle. Jesus then asked where the other nine were, to which everyone shrugged. Then he turned to the one ex-leper, blessed him, and sent him home to his family. I know this verse has been often used in a ptolemaic manner to scold thankless people. However, I wonder if this story isn’t a commentary on the cross-section of humanity in some way?
There are some personalities who are naturally thankful, and others who are not; there are some families who have trained thankfulness into their children better than others; there are some persona’s on the enneagram who are achievers that forget the past and rush to the future, or reformers who ignore what is going right and are always fixing what is wrong, or challengers who are unappreciative of others in their struggle to confront unfair systems. These folks are all designed by God, but lack an intuitive gratitude like the helpers, peacemakers, or loyalists. It appears that some of us can only regain a spirit of thanksgiving through spiritual discipline and practice and liturgy. Shaming them for being like the nine ungrateful lepers isn’t very helpful.
There is a human point in all this to be considered: I am sure that most of the lepers were so excited after their healing that they were immediately desperate to run back to the family they had been forcefully separated from to hug and kiss and cry with them. Do you blame them? Running back to embrace my family would be my first instinct too. While I’m sure Jesus understood this, he still asked the question, “where are the others.” This signifies that gratitude for God’s work in our lives remains an important part of our spirituality.
Finally, there is the deepest point worth our attention: the one who returned was a Samaritan. In other words, rejection and social shaming was normal throughout his life. And the leprosy, well that was a pile-on of reasons to further exclude and degrade him. Is it possible that the continual rejections and exclusions created in this man a heart that could simply never walk away from this kind of divine attention without giving honor? Did it whelm up within him with even greater desperation than the need to hug his family? The brokenness, disappointment, loss, and pain that we have experienced is actually carving a deep gratitude in our soul for every intervention the Lord has brought our way. Thus, the deeper the wounds, the deeper the gratitude.
#DinnerChurchQuotes: We can’t force ourselves to be grateful, but we can stumble into the arms of gratitude when we’re exhausted from our running. (Dan Allender)
#PracticalStuff: This theme of thanksgiving is a particular challenge to me, as I am one of those who is always chasing the future so hard I forget to appreciate those who are helping me get there. So, this is for me probably more than you, but may we look each of our team members right in the eye and thank them from the depths of our soul for their friendship and ministry efforts. And then take a deep moment to thank Jesus for giving this Dinner Church family to us all. It will be good for them…to hear your thanks. But it will be great for you…to breathe the pure air of gratitude.
A Blessed Thanksgiving To You All,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.