A Very Viral Thanksgiving

This day will go down in the annals of Jim Moon history as one of the weirdest days yet. I’m sitting down at my computer thinking about thankfulness and thanksgiving after just getting diagnosed with COVID-19. Yesterday, we found out that we had an outbreak of COVID-19 at Catalyst Rescue Mission and I am one of the two staff members that tested positive. The day we have dreaded has arrived. We are prepared and the experience we have gained since March 13, 2020 is definitely being put to good use. Don’t worry, if you haven’t been called by me already, then you are not part of the contact tracing required by the Clark County Health Department. Thank goodness no one at Cook Memorial UMC or at Park Memorial UMC were a part of my close contacts in the previous 48 hours. Don’t worry about me. I am asymptomatic and in quarantine at the shelter, taking care of the others who are sick. It is Thanksgiving, and while I will not be having the traditional meal with my family, I do have much to be thankful for. 

First of all, I am thankful that God has created me for such a time as this. Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” I believe that God has a plan for our lives and I am receptive to following God’s lead wherever He may take me. Meredith and Tawnya have jokingly referred to this adventure as Jim’s Camp COVID! I told that to a couple of the residents and they have latched onto it. 

Next, I am thankful for a family that supports me. Tawnya and the children are having to experience a Thanksgiving without me at home (they might actually count that as a blessing j/k). My mom has reached out to me and in the craziness of getting everyone into a locked down situation I haven’t been able to speak with her.   

Lastly, I am thankful to dedicated doctors and nurses who go out of their way to help people even if that means putting themselves into harm’s way. I’d like to personally thank our nurse Akira Tsunawaki, our doctor Dr. Michael Bonacum, and the Clark County Health Department, with a special thanks to Dr. Eric Yazel and Doug Benthfield. 

I thought I’d center this blog around a special story of thankfulness that Jesus experienced. In Luke 17:11-19 it says, {11} “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. {12} As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance {13} and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” {14} When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. {15} One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. {16} He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan. {17} Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? {18} Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” {19} Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” 

There are two kinds of attitudes that people often bring to the table. The first is the attitude that lives in the present and takes things for granted. The alternative is the attitude that is appreciative and thankful for the blessings God has given us. To truly get to the heart of the scripture we must understand the double level of cultural tension that is present. The central figure in the story is both a Samaritan and a leper.  To the Jews, the Samaritan ethnic group was a collection of traitors, a bunch of half-breeds. The name Samaritan was derived from the capital of the separatist northern kingdom of Israel, Samaria. The Samaritans intermarried with the pagan nations and were seen as unfaithful to the nation of Israel. For all intents and purposes, as a Samaritan, the man that came to Jesus should be a person that is least likely to recognize Jesus for who He really is. Even though the Jews had written off the Samaritans as unreachable, Jesus gives all people an equal chance to know Him as their Savior, for sometimes the people we least expect to be faithful to God prove to be the most faithful. 

Lepers were also culturally isolated, so these gentlemen have two knocks against them. Leprosy refers to a wide range of conditions but the possibility of these conditions being contagious required isolation until the condition cleared.  According to the law, any person with a leprous disease was required to live “outside the camp” (Num. 5:2-3) and cry out “unclean, unclean” whenever anyone approached (Lev. 13:45-46). If a leper were fortunate enough to recover, a priest had to certify that the person was clean before they could return to the community. 

The fact that the “men with leprosy” draw near to Jesus says much about Him, since lepers were expected to isolate themselves from people.  What they know about Jesus tells them that He is approachable. When people drew near to Jesus, Jesus drew near to them. Having humble hearts of thanksgiving that draw near to Christ will bring us close with Jesus. 

The role of sight and the act of seeing things as they really are plays an important role in the development of our passage of scripture. That day ten lepers saw Jesus and called out to Him in a loud voice. Then Jesus sees the lepers. Jesus “seeing” the lepers proves to hold a stark contrast to what the lepers themselves were actually seeing. Jesus sees all of the men but only one of them truly sees Jesus. The other nine only could see Jesus for what he had to offer them, a chance to be healed. They only had a place for Jesus in their lives until they got what they wanted and then they turned back to their same old ways again.  

Do we see Jesus for who He really is and offer him the thanksgiving He is due? What do you do when you see Him? The group of lepers sees Jesus, Jesus sees them, and then one of the lepers sees that he is healed and recognizes the experience to be what it actually was: a miracle of the Messiah. 

When the leper saw healing, he did not just celebrate his good fortune; he returned to praise God and fell on his face before Jesus.  Gratitude may be the purest measure of one’s character and spiritual condition. The absence of the ability to be grateful and appreciative reveals a self-centeredness and an attitude that takes our blessings for granted. When Jesus sees the lepers off in the distance He tells them to go show themselves to the priest. One does not go to the priest until they are healed, so Jesus’ command for them to go indicates that healing will occur.  

The passage then says, “…and it happened as they were going, they were made clean.” As the lepers turn and go, they are healed. One man breaks free from the group.  Full of praise he throws himself at Jesus’ feet and offers thanksgiving for his cleansing.  Jesus asks the Samaritan leper, “Were there not ten that were healed? Where are the other nine? Was no one left to give God praise except this foreigner?”  Jesus takes special note of the irony in the situation. He has not come just to those of religious privilege but also for those who are the forgotten, the outcasts, and the diseased. 

This Thanksgiving let us take our time to count our blessings and to give thanks to our biggest blessing, our Savior, Jesus! No matter what our circumstances, we have much to be thankful for!  Offering our praise to God is important because it reestablishes our relationship with God on its proper terms.  In the communion of praise comes a cleansing from attitudes that the world often implants in our hearts. The reaction of the nine shows how often we tend to take God’s gracious actions for granted. Let us be truly thankful for what the Lord has done for us in our lives.

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