This Sunday, our First Church month of gratitude continues with Thanksgiving Sunday — a special time to stop and think of all the people in our lives for whom we are so grateful. As part of this First Church celebration of Thanksgiving we will honor and recognize the contributions of another very special group of saints — those who have served as organists for our church during the past 91 years: Will Foster (1926 – 1942); Robert R. Clarke (1943 – 1973); Gladys Day (1973); Stanley Shepelwich (1973 – 1992); Mary Jo Springer (1992); Janet W. Pummill (1992 – 2000); Jack Noble White (2000 – 2004); and Aaron Medina (2004 – 2012). Of course, we continue to give thanks for our current organist, Peggy Graff, who has served now for five years.
What a blessing it will be to welcome and honor three of our five living former organists who are able to be with us on Sunday: Stanley Shepelwich, Mary Jo Springer, and Janet Pummill. Dan Garland, our friend and beloved builder of the Anne S. and Henry B. Paup Sanctuary Pipe Organ will also be with us. During the worship service Mr. Shepelwhich, Mrs. Springer, Mrs. Pummill, and Mr. Garland will perform as our service organists and pianists. Our deep expression of gratitude for their service will be part of our overall Thanksgiving celebration.
Don’t we sometimes forget to express our thanks to the people who are special to us — those who are or have contributed to our lives and experiences in a special way? Isn’t it easy in the rush and hurry, deadlines and commitments of our busy lives to forget to give thanks to God for the many great blessings of our lives?
In our scripture reading this week, Luke 17:11-19, we find the story of Jesus healing 10 lepers. Now, to be a leper in first century Palestine was to be a complete outcast — to live in separation from your home, your family, and your friends. So, imagine what it would be like to suddenly be healed of this dread disease that you thought was a life sentence and to be returned to your life. Imagine what it would be like to unexpectedly get to rejoin society, reunite with your friends and family, and resume your life before this disease struck. Can you even fathom what a feeling of overwhelming gratitude that must have been for these 10 people?
And yet, when the 10 lepers were cleansed, only one of them returned to Jesus to give thanks. Isn’t it strange that only one out of 10 expressed gratitude for this extraordinary gift? Jesus thought so. We know this because he asked the question: “Weren’t 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
I wonder what reasons the other nine would have given for not going back to say thank you. What could possibly explain their lack of thanksgiving?
Were they too busy?
Did they take this great blessing for granted as something they deserved?
Were they putting it off until later when they could express their thanks more perfectly?
Did they think they somehow healed themselves through their own efforts?
There may well have been nine different reasons. We really don’t know. The questions I encourage us all to ponder this week are: Do any of those reasons sound familiar? What is the reason you forget to give thanks? And will you live in the ranks of the 10 percent or the 90 percent?
Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds us to give thanks, but it only comes once a year. One day out of 365. What about the rest of the year? In our First Church month of gratitude, we’ve given thanks for all our saints — those who have gone before us and those still living — whose contributions have made a difference in our own lives and the lives of our faith community. But that’s just one month out of 12; what are we doing the rest of the year?
I look forward to exploring these questions of thanksgiving with you during Sanctuary worship this Sunday as we all prepare to celebrate on Thanksgiving Day.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Jesus heals a Samaritan
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”
When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”