Pr. Ben Adams
October 12, 2019
Something’s Happening Here
I’m not sure if I even knew what prostrating meant before I went to seminary. Same goes for the word genuflecting. But these are words used in Christian worship to mean lying face down, prostrating, or taking a knee, genuflecting. But, I remember my first time prostrating. It was here in this very space. Maybe some of you were here to see it. It was on Good Friday three years ago. Each Good Friday we have hosted a joint worship with Grace Episcopal, and for our Episcopal siblings, there are two things you do on Good Friday, you prostrate before the cross, and you wear only a black cassock.
Ok that sounded weird, let me say it clearer, the black cassock isn’t the only thing we wear on Good Friday, we do wear clothes underneath. It’s just meant to be a more stripped-down service… ok, you know what let me stop while I’m behind. I think y’all get the point.
So there I am with Reverend Amity Carrubba of Grace Place and we walk out of the sacristy quietly in our black cassocks with clothes on underneath. And we reach the foot of the cross where Amity has instructed me that we will prostrate ourselves, but since I am new to this whole liturgical move, I have my eyes peeking over at Rev. Amity to make sure that I am doing it right. So I keep my peripheral vision focused on her to make sure we are moving in unison and I follow her as we take a knee, as we put down our other knee, and finally as we lower our bellies and faces to the ground. Even as we lay there, I have my eyes peeled to the side to make sure I start getting back up when Rev Amity gets back up. So I am so focused on getting this right, but my mind decides to make a jump and all of a sudden the chorus of the Buffalo Springfield song, For What It’s Worth, starts running through my head. You know the one, “We better stop, hey, what's that sound, Everybody look what's going down”
Needless to say, I felt like I was all over the place, but despite my fixation on trying to “get it right” and the simultaneous random earworm popping into my head, I can still remember the profound feeling I felt in that moment. I can’t really describe it, but I was moved as we lay face down in the middle of the sanctuary, in the middle of worship. Something happened there in that liturgical act of thanksgiving and reverence that continues to live with me, through an embodied ritual worship movement and moment like prostrating on Good Friday I was moved, something happened there.
I wonder if you have a similar story. A moment in worship where you felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, or you get goosebumps, or you may have even been moved to tears. Maybe it’s moments like those that keep us coming back. Reminding us that even if we don’t feel it every single week, something is happening here.
And that leads me to our Gospel lesson, where Jesus healed ten people suffering from leprosy, but it’s in this unique way. Jesus doesn’t touch them or put mud and spit on them, but rather he instructs them to show themselves to the priests, and it’s as they walk away to do just that that they are healed of their leprosy. But out of the ten, only one turns back to thank Jesus for being healed. The text says that when this one, saw that he was healed, he turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He then prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.
Then Something happens. Jesus says to this man, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” The word used in this text to describe thanks that this one healed person gives is the Greek word Eucharisteo or as we would maybe hear it in worship today, Eucharist. It was not necessary for this one to come back and prostrate himself and thank Jesus, the other nine don’t and yet they still are healed, but I would affirm that it is still important what this one does in coming back to participate in the Eucharist, something happens there.
It’s beyond healing, it’s holistic wellness that this one healed person receives as a result of their gratitude. And I would argue that a similar thing happens here every week when we gather here to give our thanks and praise. We don’t have to come here, our theology does not require ritual acts of worship to experience God’s grace, and I’m sure we can think of a hundred other ways to spend our Saturday night. Yet, we are here, like the one healed man in our Gospel who returns to Jesus to say thank you, to sing, pray, and participate in the Eucharist. And in that ultimately unnecessary, but important act, something happens. Wellness is experienced, community is built, and spirits are fed. Something’s happening here.
But that’s not to say that this is the only place that something happens. We see it in our everyday lives when someone sends a thank you note, when a sincere hug of thanksgiving is shared after an act of generosity, when maybe even when someone comes out. I was thinking about this last one this past week as we observed National Coming Out Day. My social media feed was flooded with stories of people coming to understand their gender identity or sexuality as different from the cis-gender, heterosexual norm that was placed on them, that is placed on all of us.
These stories were ones of courage, stories of reconciliation, messy stories of healing and wholeness. I was moved by all of the stories and messages of support for folks who have come out and those who have not come out maybe because it’s unsafe, because they don't want to, or it might be for some other reason altogether. One of the most moving things about this whole national coming out day is that is was a day of giving thanks. Giving thanks for the ways in which God has created us. And out or not, if you are having trouble giving thanks for who God made you to be, I want you to know that God made you on purpose. And when we can find it in ourselves to return thanks to God for making us fearfully and wonderfully, something happens there. Wellness, wholeness, and healing are given to us by God.
So it’s not just in worship that we give thanks, it can be in coming out, or not, but coming to a place where we love who God created us to be. That is an act of giving thanks. Especially when the world tries to keep us in captivity, giving thanks for who God has created us to be is a radical act.
Speaking of radical acts, the Hebrews in the Jeremiah text today are instructed to seek the welfare of the city to which they have been forcibly relocated by the Babylonians. Wow, that is not an easy task seeking the welfare of the city where one is being held captive in exile. Yet this radical act of seeking the welfare of the Babylonian city where they find themselves exiled, it is a response of thanks to God for being with them even in captivity. It is a radical act of thanks for what God does, and not what the Babylonians have done to them. Something happens there. It reminds me of this sticker that I see on the bike rack outside of Roosevelt University that says, “Helping others helps yourself.”
In giving thanks to God by seeking the welfare of even those who attempt to hold us in captivity, we are promised that in that radical act we will find our own welfare. Something happens here when we give thanks by living free even in the face of oppression. Something happens when we look inward and thank God for what new facets of our identity we find. Something happens when we respond to our own healing by running back to God at this table and giving thanks for all that God has done.
Something’s happening here folks. And from time to time we better “stop, hey, what's that sound, everybody look what's going down.” I’m not saying you have to prostrate yourself, but practicing radical acts of thanksgiving, not out of obligation, but in response to God’s goodness, is the way to wellness, healing and wholeness. Difficult and mysterious as it may be, something’s happening here. Thanks be to God!