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I was the kid whose mom had to force me to sit down and write thank you notes to Grandpa and Grandma for the Christmas gift they gave me. It didn’t help that their gifts were usually the very practical stuff mom probably told them we needed – socks, scarves, and gloves. It was hard enough to write a thank you note with my bad chicken scratch that passed for penmanship, much less muster any kind of enthusiasm for the job for receiving new underwear. To this day, I do not do a good job with writing thank you notes…

I used to feel horrible about that. “What a schmuck I am,” not to be able to crank out a simple thank you note. I was not ungrateful, but there had to be a better way to say thank you than some silly, forced words on a card. “Let me cut their grass, mom. I’m happy to do that. Let me show my appreciation by doing something for them, shoveling the snow, painting the garage, anything but writing these stupid cards – that works for me, mom. It wasn’t until a 1995 book called The Five Languages of Love, that I realized what was going on inside of me. I best express my thanks and love for people by acts of service. Not by words of affirmation or quality time or gifts or physical touch – but by ‘doing stuff’ for them. That is how I say thanks. And that is how I best express my love for people. I believe our ‘thanksgiving language’ is other side of the love language. So how we say thanks, mirrors how we love people. And we can have one language for how we want to express love and another for how we best receive love.

So, as I was praying about the stories of healing in today’s readings, I found myself thinking about which ‘love language/thanksgiving language’ might have been operative in the stories. Naaman, wanted to express love by giving gifts. When the prophet would have none of that, he asks to take two cart loads of earth back with him. He wanted to receive love through physical touch. If I can’t see the God who saved me, at least I can touch the earth where I was healed – and be connected to the one to whom I owe my life. I can plunge my hands into the dirt from the place where I was saved – and I’ll know the healing that restored me to my family and friends.

The Samaritan, perhaps, was the only one into words of affirmation. Once he knew he was healed, he leaves the others because he has to say something to Jesus – he HAS to tell him about the gratefulness in his heart. He skips the formal process of being declared clean by the priests because his love language is words – and nothing will stop him from saying those words and expressing his thankfulness with those words of affirmation as quickly as possible.

What about the other nine? We don’t know. Did they use their love language as a way to say thanks? Maybe they figured the quality time they’d spend with their families whom they had been cut off from for as long as they were declared ‘unclean’ would be more than enough thanks to the creator of those families. Maybe they wanted to say thanks with their acts of service in their synagogue or neighborhoods. Or, they were intending to send gifts Jesus’ way to help this itinerant preacher. We just don’t know.

What we do know is this truth, taught by the actions of the Samaritan – WHATEVER our love/thanksgiving language – (acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts or physical touch) it has to CONNECT us to the one we love. Jesus makes sure that his disciples knew there is something different about this one – “Were not all ten cleansed?” he asked. “Where are the other nine?” They’ve missed something crucial – that relationship with me. And then he goes to say to the Samaritan – “Your faith has SAVED you.” Not just cured you, but saved you. What your love language did was bring you to a relationship with me that makes all the difference.

So how do you say ‘thank you’ to the God who gave you the gift of this day? How do you do it in a way that connects you to Jesus in a relationship that is life giving? I know that I am not so good with the words of affirmation. I also know that it is easy NOT to connect to the people I am serving. So that my acts of service can be a way of me keeping God at an arm’s length. “I’ll do my work. You stay over there. I’ll love you from over here, where it is safe and I can control how involved and how far the relationship will take me.” It can be easy to hide beneath all that doing…

This week – take some time to thank the people who teach you about love and life – spend some quality time, write some words of affirmation, give them a hug or a gift, or serve them in a way that brightens their day. And in these next few minutes of our worship take a lesson from the Samaritan – whether it is by quality time you spend after receiving the Lord in communion, the acts of service in your singing and ministering around this table, your words of affirmation and AMEN, your gifts in the offertory, the sign of peace you exchange with your neighbor – let your love language connect you to the Lord who wants not only to heal you from your struggles, but to SAVE you unto life eternal…

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