Luke 17: 17-21 (The Message)
Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”
Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”
Maybe you remember the following story.
A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a while. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.
“Well, what were the people like where you came from?” replied the farmer.
“Oh man, they were self-centered, back-biters, always concerned about the next dollar and who was whose best friend or in the trendiest circle! A pretty superficial lot, really! I just had to get out of that town!”
“Wow! Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort of people in the next town.”
Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and made a turned a different direction at the next intersection, while the farmer returned to his work.
Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction as the previous stranger, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.
“What were the people like where came from?” replied the farmer once again.
“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly — a pretty positive community, really. Seems like we brought out the best in each other. I was sorry to have to leave them.”
“Well, you have nothing to worry about, my friend,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort of people in the next town.”
Food for Thought:
There seems to be a very real aspect of God’s Kingdom that is as present to us as our next breath, and as real to us as the thrilling sight of the first snowfall or the joy of first blossoms in spring or the quieting call of a trickling forest stream or the exhilaration at a child’s laughter. But the Kingdom can also be just as real as the anxiousness of a stranger’s approach or the mistrust of a friend’s motives or the angst in recognizing someone else’s pain or the fear in the midst of change.
Recognizing God’s Kingdom, the Nativity seen in our midst, may depend largely on the fear, doubt, gratitude, praise, compassion or awe we bring to the moment, to each moment, in our lives. Doesn’t it seem to you, that where gratitude and awe are offered first, peace and wonder are somehow always present?
It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Where are all the people who have experienced the wonder of God in their lives? Were not there dozens and hundreds and thousands of them? Yet so many seem unable to give deep thanks to the Creator of all, the Source of being and life… none save a few, odd and unexpected folks who typically don’t fit our popular trends and beliefs? And, yet, you ask for signs of God’s Kingdom?”
What if the key to the revelation of God’s Kingdom here and now might be as simple a step as practicing deep, genuine gratitude in all our moments, in all of our encounters, with friend and foe, lover and stranger, gift and grief alike? What might we see then?
God of gift and grace, open my eyes that I might see glimpses of life and eternity that are present where I least expect them to be … because I often forget to expect them everywhere, or because such moments often invite a gratitude I have forgotten to give. In this season of Advent, may I be open to what it is that I bring to each moment and encounter with your creation. For this moment, and all things, I give thanks.