When Jesus was traveling through the countryside near the Mexican border in Texas, he was entering Laredo. Suddenly, he heard the cries of men shouting, “Jesus, save us. We have AIDS and are homeless with nowhere to go.” The disciples tried to get Jesus to ignore these “losers,” as they called them, but Jesus rebuked them, “These too, in spite of their sins and problems, are children of Abba Father.” Jesus told the men, “Go, show yourselves to the doctors.” After having an HIV test at the hospital, the men were notified weeks later. One of the ten men realized he had been cured.
Jesus was still conducting a revival in Laredo so the man sought him out. One night when Jesus had finished preaching the Good News from the scroll of Isaiah, the man approached him, and praised and thanked him for healing him. Jesus said, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this Mexican?” Then he said to him, “Go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
This story reminds us to be grateful this thanksgiving. It reminds us that God’s covenant, once thought to be the exclusive purview of the Israelites, is now extended to all peoples. God knows no favorites; however, God does show a special concern for those who are defenseless. In Jesus’ day and culture these were the widows, the orphans, and the immigrants. Today, the defenseless are the children (born and unborn), immigrants, unskilled divorcees, widows, the homeless, and those suffering from debilitating and terminal diseases.
The author of Deuteronomy encourages us to ever be thankful as does Paul in his letter to the Colossians. We are neither Jew nor Greek, Mexican nor American, gay nor straight. We are all children of the one Abba God who is known in different cultures by different names. Abba God is an inclusive God who welcomes all to the banquet table, even those whom we would like to exclude.
I think today of our action last Saturday at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. I think of all the undocumented immigrant detainees who want their share of God’s bounty. They have been enticed to come here to provide cheap labor for unscrupulous growers, contractors and manufacturers. They are then, sometimes with the complicity of the employer, rounded up in ICE sweeps, detained for a period of time, and then deported often leaving behind children who are US citizens. Deuteronomy also reminds all of us that we were once aliens in a strange land. We should treat the new immigrants with the dignity and respect due them as children of Abba God.
Yes, Abba God has blessed us with a land flowing with “milk and honey.” But we must not forget that God’s blessing is not s sign of our special favor with God (as the Prosperity Gospel leads many to believe). We are gifted for one reason and only one reason—the share the gifts of creation with all others. We are not to amass more and more while others then have less and less. We are gifted so that we might bestow gifts and blessings on others.
We need to awake to the fact that God envisions a Kin-dom where all will share in the richness and bounty of the universe’s plenitude. All is gift. Let us give thanks and praise at all times. When faced with the many challenges of a big state dinner, Michelle Obama invoked the analogy of the swan. She reminds us to be calm and thankful and full of praise on the surface while, under the surface, we paddle as hard as we can to alleviate human misery by sharing God’s bounty.
This day let us not forget Abba God, Jesus, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Let us be thankful. Eastern Orthodox theology reminds us that Jesus became human so that we might become divine. We are Jesus. Let us heal one another.