If it weren’t for the darkness, one could never see the light!

Gospel Lk 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he passed along the borders of Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have mercy on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”









There is a lot more going on here than one tends to realize if and when we read it at simple uncritical face value.


Twentieth century poet…W.H. Auden wrote this:

When grace enters, there is no choice—humans must dance!


While standing on the step of the cabin on Wednesday night, a warm gentle breeze, cloudless night…pitch blackness….the sky absolutely ablaze with stars and a crescent moon….I took a few brief moments….looking at those stars…I thought to myself….if it weren’t for the darkness, one could never see the light!


You see my friends….this Gospel isn’t a story of one grateful person who experienced profound healing in his life….it is a story of 10 profound healings, 9 of whom behaved just as precisely as the social and religious laws of their day prescribed…

and one other….

one social and religious outcast…

who did the only thing he knew and that was to glorify God…

and thank the one who was the vehicle of God’s grace…

Just as W. H. Auden said…. When grace enters, there is no choice—humans must dance!

You see my friends in the Ancient Mediterranean world….to thank a person, meant to acknowledge a gift and at the same time sever the relationship with the giver,

not because of ingratitude,

but because there would be no way to ever pay back such a gift….so he did the only thing he could…

and removed himself from the potential ever happening again.

Diedrich Bonhoffer….If the only prayer one ever uttered was “Thank you” it would be enough….

You see my friends I think we are probably alot more like the friends and family of the 9 lepers….

we acknowledge God’s grace…

we give a full hearted and full meaning filled acknowledgement to the gift,

but then we remove ourselves from the agent…

the channel….and stop the flow of Gods grace into and in our lives…

because when it happens…

we have no choice but to dance

but it is a short dance because we are simply too busy being good, upright, law abiding, productive, industrious, worthwhile people to waste time being grateful for the grace!


It is very hard if not impossible to be here when we are somewhere else….

and nothing makes it more challenging than these little electronic gadgets that were always meant to create more time and space for holy leisure but have for the most part become our nemesis rather than our assistants.

Lucky for us that saying thank you today…does not carry that type of meaning….to day it means what it says…Thank You—it is meant to carry the deep weight of our gratitude.! 

Yet it is very hard to be grateful when we are focused on being productive.

Gratitude takes time…

maybe our biggest challenge…

we can’t make more…

we may need to simply allocate differently…

maybe the dishes don’t need to be done at this moment, maybe the laundry can wait just a few minutes…

if you have ever noticed… a sunset slips away quickly and a shooting star is often milliseconds in length. 

When grace enters, there is no choice but to dance!

My hope and my prayer:  that we learn to dance well and dance often!



The 4th Dimension-27th Sunday Yr C 5 OCT 2013


Gracious God, you love so radically that you cause division to develop because we can’t grasp how wide is your embrace.  Be with us this night, as we invite you into our lives to push the boundaries of our experience so that we can grow into the grace filled vessels of your love for all.  As we walk this night may our journeys be filled with discovery and hope, for we walk in your name, one God for ever and ever.



Gracious God, in the radical wideness of your mercy and love, open our hearts and minds to see beyond the limits of our visions and the confines of our certitudes.  Grant us the grace of gratitude and the uncomfortability of your disturbance, so that we can see the breadth of your embrace for all of your creation.  We ask this in the great mystery of you, one God forever and ever.  Amen



Oh God, we have been challenged, and have explored and wrestled with your word and the incomprehensible wideness of your love and embrace.  May this sacrament be for us a reminder that like the fire of your love we may never contain what is uncontainable, and yet our holiness is as close as the changing of our perspective.  Walking in your embrace may we share the vastness of your presence with a world that struggles to live with the concept of unlimited love.  We ask this in your most holy name, one God forever and ever.


In the late 1990s the was a print ad for CNN….

It was a picture of a large semi engulfed in flames on a city street, and an elderly woman with a kitchen bucket with a garden hose throwing her little pail of water on the truck and the caption underneath it read:

History is not made by kings and presidents, but by ordinary people doing extraordinary things!

And I thought to myself….that is precisely a metaphor for the Spiritual Life as well…..

Holiness is not only accomplished by ascetic monks locked away in a remote monastery or some radically holy place, but by ordinary people, doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways!

You see my friends, we run the danger of hearing this Gospel today and thinking that we must not have enough faith….because while we may not have tried to uproot some mulberry tree…we have ferverently prayed for this thing or that and it did not happen.

And we conclude inacurately that we must not have enough faith.  But nothing could be further from the truth.

We must hear the whole Gospel…that Jesus continues to say…that each and every one of us have been given and gifted with enough faith yet we often fall short in living the gift that has been given.

I think it is imperative for us to hear what Paul said:

That is why I want to remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is in you!


Sometimes we separate who we are and what we do in our daily lives from the God in whom we believe because we have been erroneously been taught that there is a separation between us and God….between our faith and our daily lives….between the Sacred and the Profane….nothing…absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.  And that is what I believe Jesus was trying to say to the disciples…

The 16th century St. Francis de Sales wrote in his book entitled:  An Introduction to the Devout Life these words:

“It is not merely an error but it is in fact a heresy to believe that a devout life of holiness is necessarily banished from the soldier’s camp, the merchant’s shop, the prince’s court or the domestic hearth.”

My friends…Jesus pointed out to the disciples….they didn’t and we don’t need more faith…we simply need to see or to realize that the gift of faith has already been given, we just need to live into the gift.

Faith is about looking at our lives from the 4th dimension….you see we see in 3D but we must realize we live in 4D….anything we look at, any experience we have or are having always has a dimension which we can not see…there is a deeper meaning there is a side of the experience that is begging to be explored and yet we run the risk of drawing our conclusions and decisions from our limited 3D perspective.

Faith is about understanding….everything has another dimension, another side, another perspective that we are invited to explore.

Let me tell you about an inmate whom I have come to know these past two years….when I met J…he was in the hole…Segregation…he was ticked off, angry, a chip on his shoulder bigger than the rock of Gibraltar…we visited several times and had numerous conversations over the time he would find himself in and out of the hole.

This past year has seen a huge change in J.  He has done a complete 180…he smiles, he is courteous, his anger seems to have subsided or he is at least dealing with it in a healthier manner.  He has begun to change the attitude and environment of his entire unit.  It’s almost hard to be negative around him…which alone is an accomplishment.

You have to understand…J is about 35..has been down for probably about 10 yrs, and is facing being down for another 30….that is a very long time in a very limiting, negative, dangerous environment.  Prison doesn’t often facilitate the growth in holiness. 

I called J in this week and just had to ask him….what happened?  What’s different?  He said….well you know Marty…one time when I was in SEG and you sat down and talked to me through the book pass you said….well J..you can spend the next 30 yrs, pissed off, angry, fighting and miserable…or you can make the decision to spend the next 30 yrs helping others see a different side of their situation and maybe save them from being pissed off, angry and miserable….He said…I thought about that…prayed on it…and decided maybe that is my purpose…to accept my 30 but make sure that others don’t have to live it!

You see my friends….we don’t need to ask Jesus for more faith….we just need to look at the 4th dimension of our lives and see it from a new perspective.  Holiness is as close as a smile, or a hand shake or a thank you. 

Remember what Paul said: That is why I want to remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is in you!

I wonder what dimension the world will see from us this week?