For me, as much as truth and reconciliation are about healing emotionally and physically, they are a fundamental part of a spiritual journey. On a spiritual journey, I get clearer about truth with myself and others, and I work towards reconciliation with those parts of myself, my family, my community, the land to which we are inextricably linked and God. While we are focused on reconciliation between settler and the indigenous peoples of this land, I am a settler, speaking to mostly settlers, through a Judeo Christian lens. We are using the First Nations Version of the New Testament this morning, and even that is a First Nations version of a Judeo Christian text. Truth telling and reconciliation are difficult work, and as our Gospel this morning says, “when you have done everything the Great Spirit expects of you, serve him as you would an elder and do not expect to be honoured for doing only what you should do.” (Luke 17:10 FNV) We do the work as settlers, expecting nothing in response.
And a further thought about this beautiful version of the New Testament, from which we heard our readings today. It’s the brand new (2021) First Nations Version. On a spiritual journey it is so important to see and hear the familiar with different eyes and ears. Its kind of like walking home on a road you don’t usually walk on; suddenly you notice different things, you see from a different perspective.
What’s it like hearing the names used for Jesus in this version? We hear him called “Wisdomkeeper”, and in the very next section of this Gospel we’ll hear him called, “Creator Sets Free”. What does the name “Wisdomkeeper” suggest for you? What does the name “Creator Sets Free” mean for you? What do these names open for you about who Jesus was and is? I have gained a real appreciation for this term Wisdomkeeper. Notice its not Wisdomgiver. Wisdom is something you and I have to work at. As the disciples ask for help about their faith this morning, Wisdomkeeper does not give them a five step plan of action, he tells a story. And we work to discern its meaning for us, in this time and place.
This morning, I invite us to wonder about the place of gratitude. A question for you, on a scale of 1 – 10 how important is gratitude for you?
Many years ago I worked as a doorman at a big hotel in Edmonton. I had the honour and thrill of working in that job during a Royal Visit. The Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana stayed at the hotel; in fact, in the office downstairs is a photo of me standing next to HRH Princess Diana. One of the stories I like to tell is that as they were leaving the hotel for the last time, the Prince, as he was then, stopped and thanked me. Now, what was funny was that none of the phalanx of people behind him expected him to stop so there was a bit of ‘dominoes’ as people bumped into each other. At the same hotel around this time there was a fellow employee who worked in sales. He wore a suit, and because he didn’t wear a uniform, was one of the employees who was allowed to come in the front doors of the hotel and not the service entrance. This chap, we’ll call him Frank, would come through the doors that I was holding open and never thank me.
Now, just think about our Gospel reading this morning, where Wisdomkeeper (Jesus) says we should do what we do because it’s the right thing to do, and not expect anything in return. I need to say, I was not there. I was actually pretty choked. One day, soon after the Royal visit, Frank walked through the door, and once more didn’t say thank you. I called after him, “Frank!” He stopped. I went up to him, looking him straight in the eye and said firmly, “The flipping Prince of Wales said thanks when I held the door for him, I’m sure you can do the same.”
How do you feel when you do something for someone and receive nothing in response?
Do you have to expect something, like gratitude in return for something you do? What of the gift of just doing it, expecting nothing in return?
One of the steps in a spiritual journey is uncovering the truth of “both, and”. For example, you can mourn the death of HM The late Queen and grieve the pain of colonialism and the Residential Schools. You can miss the old way of doing things and be excited about new possibilities. You can feel guilty about past wrongs and want to try to heal yourself. You can look at a Biblical text and be both confused and curious. I know I often am. You can be grateful for and frustrated by a given situation. God’s creation is not binary, it’s much more quantum than we can ask or imagine.
Now, importantly, the readings we hear in this house of learning and prayer, are based on a lectionary that all Anglican Churches in Canada and many churches across the world use, that divides the readings so that if you came to church every Sunday for three years, you’d hear much of the New Testament. And, these divisions assume a particular order and content of each section. So for example, the 5 verses of Luke’s Gospel we hear today stand on their own in the lectionary, and so we might think that the line, “...do not expect to be honoured for doing only what you should do” (Luke 17:10) is the end of Wisdomkeeper’s answer to his disciples. And is that all there is to the answer?
Wisdomkeeper in this morning’s reading in replying to the Disciple’s request “Help our weak faith!” (Luke 17:5) tells the story of the elder and the young man and how the elder, would expect that the young man not only hunt the deer, but also butcher, cook and serve the deer and the elder is not expected then to thank the young man doing what is expected. (Luke 17:10 FNV)
In the next verses in this chapter, (11 – 19) we are told that Jesus continues on his way to Jerusalem. Here’s how the First Nations Version tells the story;
He went into a small village where ten men with skin disease came across his path. They kept a respectful distance from him and called loudly, “Creator Sets Free (Jesus) Honoured One!” They pleaded, “Have Pity on Us!”
Creator Sets Free (Jesus) looked at them and said, “Go to the Holy Men and show yourselves to them.”
They did what he said and as they were on their way, they were healed. One of the ten men, when he saw he was healed returned to Creator sets Free (Jesus) giving loud praise to the Great Spirit. He then bowed down to honour Creator Sets Free (Jesus) and offered him thanks. This man was from High Place (Samaria).
Creator Sets Free (Jesus) said to those who were watching, “were not ten men healed? Where then are the other nine? Was the only one who returned to give thanks and honour to the Great Spirit an outsider from High Place (Samaria)?”
Then he said to the man, “Stand up and be on your way, your trust in me has healed you.” (Luke 17:11-19 FNV)
The NRSV puts the last line like this, “Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19 NRSV)
Did you hear it? “your faith” or “your trust”. What if this line actually links to the first line of our Gospel this morning, “Wisdomkeeper, help our weak faith.” (Luke 17:5 FNV) And here’s the really cool thing, in the biblical Greek, it’s the same word; pistis. Both Faith and trust are great words to translate from the Greek, pistis. What if the two stories are connected? What if Jesus is answering the Disciple’s initial question with a “both and’ answer.
We should do things for others because it’s the right thing to do. Our social milieu is not confined to transactions; you do this and then I do this. Simply because we are wearing Orange Shirts and using the First Nations Version, do not expect the First Nations on whose lands we meet are going to rush to thank us settlers. “...[D]o not expect to be honoured for doing only what you should do.” (Luke 17:10 FNV)
And gratitude can change our lives; gratitude is inextricably linked to faith, to trust. Gratitude changes our perspective. Nine out of ten times we don’t see that, but when you are able see yourself, or others, or even the Great Spirit through a lens of gratitude, you cannot help but build faith and trust. Build your faith both by doing things because you should do, and be grateful when good things happen to you. In short, ‘Don’t’ expect thanks, and give thanks.’
And here’s the kicker for someone like me who’s been around this place for a long time; its often the outsider, who gets that gratitude changes our lives. Those of us who have been here for a long time can sometimes miss that. So if you are new here, if you feel like an outsider here, know you are welcome, we are grateful for your presence, as we have much to learn from you in this house of prayer and learning.
So, on a scale of 1 – 10, how important is gratitude for you, now?
In a few moments, Melanie will preside at the Eucharist, “The Great Thanksgiving.” We will gather around the altar, and give thanks for all of the Great Spirit’s creation, for life, for our ancestors, for our children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren, for Wisdomkeeper, and all the message bearers past and present. And perhaps as importantly, we will give thanks for the presence of each other, even the presence of those who are connected to our own pain. May we all find gratitude in our spiritual journey towards truth and reconciliation, as beloved children of the Great Spirit.