What does it mean to see what we are, and to become what we receive in our lives? Its a call and response you and I say every Sunday at the invitation to Eucharist “behold what you are, may we become what we receive.” But what does that mean? Are we meant to become a broken loaf of bread and some wine? The bread goes stale, and the wine sour if left out for too long, so that doesn't make much sense. But then again, the bread and wine are more for us than what we see. In the Eucharist, the very service we are at today, they become the very flesh and very blood of Christ, broken and shed for us and this world. Broken to bring us into relationship and wholeness again, to recover us from sin and bring healing. So are we to become Christ, taking on his image and nature in our world? Well, there’s only one Jesus, so impersonating him won't do. So I guess that means we are meant to live in the image of Jesus, but that's overwhelming because there’s so much to do and the pressure is high- how can we live up to this in our everyday? Can’t we just have one nice Sunday together, where there's no ontological arguments, theological challenges, or make work projects from the Vicar? Absolutely, and this mornings Gospel asks us to look deeper at what we see- this bread and wine, the offering of Jesus, the person of Jesus, this invitation to wholeness in Jesus, and become what we see in the world around us. At the core of this becoming is a relationship, a relationship so profound that we can’t live the same anymore because of it.
In Luke-Acts, the Samaritan people play a large role in the understanding of Jesus’s ministry of radical inclusivity that got him in so much trouble with the authorities. There were firm rules about who was in or out of social groups in Jesus’ day, and the Samaritans were on the outside. These were people who broke away from the Jewish nation to form their own monarchy, and worshiped God differently, they didn't follow the rest to Jerusalem. Truely, if we were traveling on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as temple Jews, we would avoid their whole neighbourhood because they were seen to be our enemies -- because they did not work, worship, live, or act like us. But why does that matter? Because Jesus, the offer of whole relationship.
In come 10 lepers, the utter outskirts of society and they recognize Jesus. They are desperate to be healed from their afflictions. And as soon as he heals them, they go on their way-- all except one. The Samaritan- the enemy. He turns back and offers thanks, not just a hallmark card or a pat on the back, but an orientation change which leads to a new depth of relationship because of what he’s experienced in the wholeness and healing Christ has given to him in his life. Christ has brought him back into the centre of Gods universe by giving him back his humanity. No wonder he turned back to thank Jesus. Yet I wonder, who are our Samaritans? Who are we afraid to engage with, personally, or corporately?
What the writer of Luke-Acts is doing here is demonstrating to us just how profound and deep Christ’s love and relationship is for a world which radically includes everyone -- not just those who work, worship, live, or act like us. Christ pulls down the walls of exclusion in his ministry, and opens our eyes and hearts to a new way, a new vision for the world we live in -- where everyone matters. Christ engages with those who challenge us, who maybe scare us, and declares them citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our challenge is Christ asks us to do the same with the gratitude of the Samaritan in our hearts and minds.
As a commentator on this Gospel suggested the act of living gratitude starts with awareness, which leads to change, which morphes into praise for the new awareness, which becomes gratitude for the change, that sends us on our way into the world to live differently because of what we’ve received, a reception that fundamentally changes us because we now see and know ourselves differently due to the action of Christ’s passion. What connects each of them is an act, or action: something happens that draws us into gratitude. This action, this relationship, this gratitude, this wholeness is the Eucharistic feast, the moment of our greatest clarity, deepest mystery, and profound invitation to action in the world. In the Eucharist we see again and again our lives, struggles, and joys presented to us in the bread and wine of communion. We can see this because this bread and wine are for us the very blood and body of Christ, a gift which unites us with him, and through him with the world which he died for. The varied hues of brown, the flecks of grain in the crumb, the sumptuous purple of the wine, all reflect our deepest abilities, gifts, and treasures in it because of their human origins -- because our humanity which created them for God's glory in Christ, which then by the power of the Holy spirit -- is transformed within them into the bread of heaven-- into Christ. The deepest mystery is how we are to live because of what we see and receive. I believe it starts with how we orient ourselves in the world because of what we receive here at this altar, our wholeness and healing like the Samartain, requires an action in the world. So how will we act because of what we receive?
As Christians, I believe we are called to live differently in the world, which means how we make choices in life, matter. The needs are incredibly high, incomes and housing are unequal, good jobs are difficult, security seems more uncertain than it did in the past. How do we support the wholeness of God's vision for the world? I think, we start with what’s in-front of us. When we see poverty, racism, sexism, any phobia or any boundary that keeps us apart from one another, we ask questions about why this still happens, and we stand with those who are disposed -- because in standing with them, we are acting to support the whole. When we start to take our kids fears seriously when they tell us that climate change is the thing which keeps them awake at night, because in listening to their fears we start to act on how to work for a better world for all. When we listen and learn how to have conversations differently about mental health, removing the stigma and shame, we act to opening the door to healing and wholeness. We start, slowly, to bring wholeness to our communities through building human relationships, Christ centered relationships because, you see, this is the key, Christ came, lived, loved, and died as one of us to make us whole again -- to bring us back to wholeness through a relationship with him. Everyone of us, both here and outside this church deserve wholeness, it's a fundamental human right for me. And the practice of wholeness starts right here, at this altar, today.
The greatest invitation we will ever get this Thanksgiving Day weekend, is the one to this altar, because it is a gift, a mystery, and a presence which is open to all -- sinner and saint, believer and skeptic, wounded and afraid, joyful and secure. This invitation, this Gospel, this Christ, asks us to move from this table into the tables of our homes, cities, and world, to live a Eucharistic life -- a life of gratitude that together we raise up more than we hold down, we befriend those who are forgotten, we honour those who are frail or alone, we continue the world Christ gave us at the cross to build his kingdom in our midst. Thanksgiving is more than just nice sentiment, beautiful dinners, great family and friends, it's about touching our very humanity with a way of life that changes humanity because of how we act because of what we believe. And you can join in that work with us as we continue to mark Homeless Action Month as a parish. For 66 years now, this parish has been looking outside its walls in different ways, asking how it can help bring wholeness to the issues it sees around it. For us, in this season of ministry now, it is homelessness, a ministry which mutually transforms us and our friends on the street into the wholeness Christ gives us at the altar via his body and blood.
So this Thanksgiving, come all who are hungry, all who question, come all who wander or wonder, and all who are weary. The table is set, there is room for all. Come receive your wholeness, and be ready to be sent into the world to act on what you recieve with the gratitude of your live with all you meet. Come and have your fill, there is more than we need, and be ready to be sent into the world to act because of this abundance. Come feast like the royalty you are in God’s eyes, and be ready to be sent into the world to act by sharing that royalty with everyone you meet. The world is hungry for wholeness in Jesus Christ, for relationship with him, how will you act on the gratitude of Christ’s call to wholeness this week?