Rev. George Miller
Oct 25, 2015
It’s been a blessed week. Last Saturday I attended the ZENON Awards at Highlands Little Theater; a chance for everyone to get dressed up, to celebrate the best of the season, and cheer on those who won.
All my life I’ve watched award shows: Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, wondering what it would be like to give an acceptance speech.
Last Saturday, I got to find out. I was up for a Board Service Award, given to volunteers.
When my name was called- it was magic. I could hear the entire auditorium break out in cheers and applause, and when I stood on stage, was handed the award, and given a chance to speak, it was a moment.
I was able to open my heart in gratitude, to dedicate it to my father, to say his name out loud, and to thank him for sharing with me his love of theater.
Then, I got to say “thank you” to those who were present, to share what HLT has meant to me, and to let them know how meaningful the moments are that they have created.
It felt amazing to have the opportunity to publicly show gratitude.
Later, I went home and stood on the dock. A crescent moon was out, the stars were shining. Bugs, frogs and gators sang their songs of praise to God their Creator.
I couldn’t help but to feel blessed, and to offer my praise as well.
Everyone should have a moment in their life in which they are given an award.
It feels so good to know you are appreciated. It feels so good to show gratitude to those who have blessed your life.
It’s healing, affirming and peace-creating.
On Monday, we at Emmanuel had a chance to experience gratitude from our Shepherd’s Pantry clients.
Over 100 people passed through our Fellowship Hall; over 1,200 items were passed out.
By 12:30, with our cupboards basically bare, we had three more people show up. We apologized for being nearly out of food and invited them to take whatever they liked.
One of the men said “I’ll leave some cans just in case someone else comes in.”
We had next to zero, he was receiving next to zero, and still he was offering to leave a little for someone else just in case.
Breaking all my boundaries based in years of social services, the volunteers made 3 envelopes with a small amount of cash and a letter from our church so our 3 guests could buy some food.
They were in the parking lot about to leave, when we approached one of the people, and said “We’re so sorry we don’t have any more food, but here’s a little something to help you out.”
Immediately she began to cry. Immediately, tears of gratitude filled her eyes.
Monday we were, once again, church; we were most definitely Emmanuel - “God with us” to a community of folk who were hungry, to those who were enslaved to their situations, and to those who were living with spirits that were crippling them.
They were grateful. Even though we had next to nothing to give them, they were full of gratitude which they shared with us.
God is good.
This ties into today’s story. 10 men living with leprosy have an encounter with Jesus in which they are set free from the bondage they are in.
By law, these men were not allowed to live in town, but near the dumps. By law, these men were required to wear ripped clothes, have uncombed hair and to stay as far away from everyone else as possible.
In other words, they were not just physically crippled by their disease, they were socially crippled by the laws that forced them to live alone and in squalid conditions.
But provocative, compassionate Jesus will have none of that. Upon hearing and seeing them, Jesus speaks a word that makes them clean; he says a word that sets them free to resume living in town and amongst the living.
Freedom- how great a gift, grace upon grace.
But only one man turns back and offers Jesus his gratitude; only one man turns around and gives praise to God.
And good for him, because due to his act of gratitude, Jesus says to him “Go, you faith has made you well.”
It is one thing to be made clean. It’s another to be set free. But there is something more about being made well.
His spirit, his life story, has been rebooted, washed clean and given a chance to be so much more than he ever thought possible.
Winning a ZENON touched me; today’s scripture touches me; the ministry that took place at the Shepherd’s Pantry touched me.
I have also realized something: I am grateful to be right here, right now, in this town, at this church. And I don’t know if I’ve ever taken the time to publicly say that to you in the same way I was able to at the theater.
It’s been 5 ½ years since you called me here, and I am thankful.
I am thankful for the opportunity to be your pastor. I am thankful for the salary you provide me and how it’s allowed me to buy a car and purchase a house.
I am thankful for the ways you have shown your loving welcome and care for my Little Brother, Cornelius and that you still ask me how he is doing up in Georgia.
I am thankful for the support and concern you give for my Mom as she continues to deal with her health-related issues.
I am thankful for your excitement and support as I’ve explored the possibility of adopting.
I am thankful for your excitement, support, and listening ears as I go through the home-owning process.
I am thankful that you have created a spirit in which I’ve felt more willing to share my story, speak about my imperfections and allow you more into my world.
I am thankful because I know that 5 ½ years ago you did not have to take a chance with me.
I am thankful because I know I have not always been the best I can be. Lets’ face it: I can be loud, overly emotional, illogical, and run around like the White Rabbit.
You can’t tell me anything before service and expect me to remember it, and you have about a 50/50 chance that any date or time I put in an e-mail is going to be wrong.
But I am thankful, because you, as members and friends of Emmanuel UCC have given me a call, a purpose, a ministry, a community, and a home.
For that I say “Thanks” and for that I give all praises and glory unto God.
And in my thanks, my hopes and prayers are that we continue to serve together.
We continue to create and offer ministry to those who are hungry,
those who thirst,
those who are living with a crippling spirit, those who are on the outskirts,
those who are in bondage,
and those longing to be free.
And in my thanks and gratitude, I hope that in Jesus Christ, we continue to have all those wonderful moments in which
we get to speak, we get to say and do, to share and to show all the many, many things that are healing, affirming and peace-creating.
Amen and amen.