20th Sunday after Trinity
St Barbara’s 8am Service; 9.10.16
Rev Tulo Raistrick
In recent years we’ve seen a huge growth in what could be termed the “health industry”. Gyms have sprung up on every highstreet. Healthy eating cafes abound. Slimming World and Weightwatchers see an incredible number of people through their doors every week.
Health matters to us. Look no further than the party political conferences that have ended this week. You won’t find a politician of any political persuasion who will be prepared to say that we should cut the money we spend on health. Governments can cut most things – but woe betide any one that tries to cut healthcare.
Our health matters to us. At an individual level, we appreciate good health when we have it, and we appreciate good health even more when we don’t have it. Our health can affect so much: our moods, our relationships, our sense of well-being. I am often so impressed by those who cope with such difficult health issues with such grace when I, for one, can all too easily become morose and irritable at just the slightest twinge of toothache.
Jesus recognised the importance of health. His ministry was marked as much by his healings of those unwell as it was by his teaching. He saw the impact that bad health could have, not just the pain but the social isolation that could be caused by paralysis or by an illness regarded as unclean.
And there were few diseases more debilitating than leprosy. It was not just the physical pain, or the loss of so many normal activities of life as one lost the use of ones hands and feet, but it was the treatment that one received from others. Being driven from home and community to live a shunned life, forced to beg for survival beyond the safety of the city walls.
So we would expect nothing less of Jesus than to reach out to these lepers and heal them, to bring them relief from their sorrow and their suffering.
But what is most striking about the story that Luke relates is the twist in the tail, the final words of this little story, where Jesus turns to the one leper who returns to give thanks to God, and says to him: “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Were not the other nine made whole too? They were healed, yes, freed from their pain and their disease, socially accepted back into their homes and communities, no longer dependent on begging to survive, but they weren’t whole.
Wholeness, that sense of being complete, of being fully the person God intends us to be, does not occur just through physical and social well-being. There is something more, and only the tenth leper realises it.
We become whole when we learn to give thanks to God, when we appreciate that the good things in our lives are from him and we give him thanks for them. When we are grateful.
We are often too busy to give thanks, or too caught up with the next source of concern on our horizon, to give thanks. But thanksgiving to God is the source of wholeness.
So on this Harvest Sunday, let us give thanks to God for all his good gifts to us, gifts that we can all too easily take forgranted.