Thursday, November 26, 2009


The act of giving thanks is one of the most ‘God-like’ of our capacities. So often it is somehow receiving just what we think we do not deserve or cannot ever achieve on our own that becomes our greatest motivation for giving thanks—thanks for the present, and thanks to the one (or the One) whose gift it is.

Think of the role-reversal of the possessed man (Mark 5)—condemned to live life as an outcast, hated and feared, hating himself, ‘crying out and bruising himself with stones,’ the Scripture account tells us. And with a word of power Jesus casts the demonic forces out of him—the townspeople found him ‘clothed and in his right mind.’ Of course he begged Jesus to allow him to stay with Him!

I can imagine Jesus’ words to him: “Yes, I know; it’s been terrible. But you are all right now, and you are now possessed by the power of love. I need you to let the others in your town know about the goodness of God to you—please bring them that message.” And he did—surely becoming as much a remarkable sight for the people of the region (he preached all through the Decapolis—the Ten Cities) as the Samaritan woman must have been after her encounter with Jesus at the well (John 4). But once you’ve been graced, and once your heart is filled with gratitude for it, what else can you do?

We are very, very like the possessed Gerasene man and the Samaritan woman. We need the touch of graced love, and when we experience it really the only thing we can do is give thanks (in a joyful way). We’re so often in the stage of “pre-encounter”—alienated in the town, outcast in the tombs: wretched, miserable, suffering, seeing no future. Then it comes (then He comes), and insofar as we are open to the transformation we are freed. The gratitude then empowers us to accomplish things (and perhaps, also, to endure things) we never dreamed of being able to do or suffer. I pray we will believe that in spite of everything, we are not alone, we are loved, and that even as we walk in the dark, we can wait trustingly for the coming of the Light.

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