The Day Before Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 — Week of Proper 28, Year 2

William Byrd, John Merbecek, and Thomas Tallis, Musicians, 1623, 1585, 1584

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 993)

Psalm 101, 109:1-4 (5-19) 20-30 (morning) // 119:121-144 (evening)

Malachi 1:1, 6-14

James 3:13 – 4:12

Luke 17:11-19

The Daily Office scriptures today urge us to offer to God right worship and humble service.

Malachi challenges the offerings we give God. His anger is directed at the priests who are cutting corners, offering blemished or injured animals instead of the pure firstfruits of the flock. For Malachi, our stewardship is a reflection of our relationship with God. These people are cheaters, he says. They insult and pollute God. The foreigners give better offerings, he says. “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the nations.” Malachi hopes to shame his people into right worship. If the other (pagan) nations can give “a pure offering,” why can’t we?

James also addresses a stewardship question. Conflicts arise out of wrong desire, he says. We covet and envy, and so we create disputes among ourselves. Humility is the liberating key — “works done with gentleness born of wisdom.” That’s one of those phrases that deserves attention. What would my life look like if I acted solely out of “gentleness born of wisdom”?

If I were committed to such a principle, I might ask, “How can I know wisdom?” James offers some commentary: “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” How different our lives might be were they to be centered on these qualities that James offers to us. Pure (simple, maybe?). Gentle. Humble. Without partiality. Peaceful.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one turns to offer thanksgiving to God. The others go their own way. The one who offers thanks is not only healed and made clean, but is also made “well”, literally “saved.” Ironically, this one is a Samaritan — an outsider, a heretic, a wrong believer.

The Samaritan gives a simple, glad offering of humble, generous thanksgiving.

Not a bad theme for the day before our national feast of Thanksgiving.

One last postscript. Note the place of honor for the outsiders in these readings — the “nations” who offer pure worship in Malachi and the Samaritan who returns gratefully in Luke. That’s another theme from our Thanksgiving heritage. When our ancestors were illegal immigrants, the “nations” welcomed us and shared life-giving food with us. Native and immigrant sat down together; “pagan” and Christian broke bread in thanksgiving and peace. Our national holiday celebrates simple, humble generosity, respect and hospitality between peoples. The scriptures do too.

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