Let Us Worship Together!
Our Saviour is incredibly pleased to have you join us for live in-person worship inside the Nave and Sanctuary on Saturday, October 8 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, October 9 at 8:00 am (simple service) and 10:30 am (traditional with choir and/or organ music). The Saturday evening and Sunday 10:30 am services will will also be online via Facebook Livestream!
Join your prayers with the community! During the live stream of the service, you are invited to type into the Facebook chat any prayer requests for those you want included in the prayers of intercession. (As always, you may also send your prayer requests by Wednesday the week ahead to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Please do this at the beginning of the service so that we can write them up and hand them to the pastors before the prayers start.
(Fast forward to 5:30 in the recording for the beginning of service)
Sunday 8:00 am — First Light Service
Sunday 8:45 am — Fellowship
Sunday 9:00 am — Sunday School for All Ages
Sunday 10:30 am — Traditional Service with Choir and/or Organist: Download Sunday’s Worship Bulletin & Watch Service Here
(Fast forward to 6:45 in the recording for the beginning of service)
If you would like to donate flowers in memory, honor or celebration of a loved one or special date, please sign up on the chart in the church office hallway or call the church office at (540) 347-3224 with your information.
Readings and Psalms:
2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
2 Timothy 2:8-15
18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
The Reb. Michael G. Church
Gratitude and a Joyful Life
Where are all the people?
A lot of preachers have been asking that lately. We had expected that, as COVID waned, church pews would fill back up again. Here at Our Saviour, and around the country, that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Now, to set the record straight, it looks worse than it is. We have three services each weekend, and a loyal online community, so people are spread out. Two weeks ago, we hade 145 people in worship – just not at the same time.
Still, there’s room for so many more – and where are they?
Jesus asks the same question in our story today. Ten lepers – ten people with a skin disease – were healed, but only one of them came back to give thanks. So Jesus asks, “Where are the rest of them? Aren’t they grateful for the gift that God has given them?”
And that same question applies to all of us, to all human beings. As the writer GK Chesterton once asked, When we were children, we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?
Of course, I’m preaching to the choir. You’re here, or watching from home; you have come to give God thanks, as it says in the Psalm, with your whole heart, in the assembly of the upright. But what about everybody else whose stockings are just as full of legs, whose lives are just as blessed with grace and mercy? Where are all the people?
One possibility is that they just aren’t grateful. Perhaps they don’t believe that God has favored them. It may well be that people are not grateful to God because they do not see evidence of God’s love, of God’s care, of God’s compassion.
And that’s on us, beloved. Because we are called to show that love to everyone.
Those lepers Jesus healed, do you know who they were? Outsiders. They weren’t upstanding citizens, they weren’t regular temple-goers. They had a skin disease which gave them zombie-pale complexions, and this same disease made them ritually unclean, unwelcome at religious ceremonies, or among religious people.
Well, except for Jesus, who didn’t really care what religious people thought. He healed them, and sent them to the Temple, and welcomed them back – or rather, welcomed the one who came back, the most outsider-y of them all, the one who wasn’t even a Jew but one of their un-beloved cousins, a Samaritan.
So who are the outsiders today? The lepers and Samaritans? Who have been made to feel that this is not a place for them, that even if God loves them, God’s people sure don’t.
Well. I remember the last time I stood on line at an airport, being stunned by the variety of people I saw there – by the skin colors, the languages, the clothing styles, the obvious displays of loyalty to a team or a tradition or an ideology. I experienced more diversity, of one kind or another, in a ten-minute wait at Dulles airport than I see here in a year’s worth of church services.
Which is not a criticism; on the contrary, it’s exciting. It means the mission field is wide open for us. There is a world of outsiders, waiting to experience God’s love. And our ministries – the food pantry, the quilts, the work at Warrenton Manor or with the developmentally challenged high schoolers we call the Friday Friends, or any of a million other things we do together – are signs of that deep, abiding love.
Many won’t care, by the way. Many won’t be grateful, to God or to us. That’s just the way it is. But the beauty – the miracle – is that some will.
A miracle. That’s right, because we think of God’s work for us as the miracles. But I will tell you that our new attitude toward God, when we stand up to give thanks, is also miraculous.
I was in a meeting the other night. It was a long, difficult meeting of church leaders, talking about money (which was tight when in churches when Jesus came, and will be tight until he comes again). I really wanted to be somewhere else, preferably with a bar. But there I was. And as we talked, something came over me – a sense of how hard these church leaders had worked to prepare, how many numbers they had crunched and ideas they had contemplated, and of how thoughtful and kind they were being even under pressure. And all this became clear, my anxiety dissolved. I was so grateful to them – and I said so – and the gratitude itself seemed to change my heart.
It does that. This isn’t just religion; it is science. Study after study shows that people who write letters of thanks and appreciation to those who have helped them – people who express gratitude – experience an actual physical change in their brain. It has something to do with serotonin and a part of the brain called the inferior temporal gyrus, of which I had never heard until I was preparing for this sermon, but it is real. Gratitude is nature’s antidepressant. Or maybe it is God, who made us this way, so that when we saw his goodness in the world around us, our restless hearts would be calmed, and we would be made whole.
When Jesus asks where the people are, when Jesus calls for gratitude, he is not trying to build up the number sin his church, or cover himself with glory, or feed his own ego. That’s not his motivation, nor should it be ours. Instead, he is inviting the other nine – the lepers who got away – to make their own lives better, more joyful, by giving thanks.
Gratitude itself is a miracle of healing and wholeness. So when we invite people to be part of our community, to come back or to come for the first time, to give God thanks in the assembly, then we offer them – I hope and pray we offer them – the invitation to live a more joyful life.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
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