Gratitude Is Heaven

by Rev. Ellie Barrington - October 7, 2012 A reflection on Luke 17:11-21 Listen to the audio recording

The great English poet and mystic William Blake wrote that “gratitude is heaven itself.” What did he mean? Perhaps that gratitude opens us to seeing and experiencing the fullness of God’s kingdom. Thankfulness leads us to live in the very realm of heaven on earth, that Jesus has been inviting us to.

Our scripture story this morning affrims this. We hear of ten lepers who receive the gift of physical healing from Jesus. Nine were fellow Jews, understandably anxious to be certified clean by the priests, so they can end their quarantined exile and return to their normal lives in community. Only the one who was Samaritan – a foreigner excluded and despised for his religion before he became a leper – only this one outsider, chose to return to Jesus to give thanks and express his joy. The Samaritan both thanks the giver – Jesus – and praises the One Source of all that is – God.

The profound and significant consequence of the Samaritan’s expression of gratitude is that he receives through Jesus, another kind of healing. Remember, he was already healed of his leprosy when Jesus bestowed this blessing: “Get up and be on your way. Your faith has made you well” or “Your trust has cured you.” Or “Your grateful praise has made you whole.” Through the eyes of gratitude, the Samaritan is now able to ‘see’ and be in ‘everyday heaven.’

Listen to the words Luke attributes to Jesus in the verses that immediately follow: “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say: ‘Look here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ for in fact, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Gratitude is a key to Kingdom. And how interesting, on this worldwide Communion Sunday, when we would extend our sense of unity and belonging around the globe, that this story reminds us: It is the foreigner, the immigrant or refugee, the outsider, the outcast who holds the key to our Kingdom living. Who is first to see the beauty and grace, the bounty and goodness in which we daily live? So often it is the outsider who has to teach us not to take the glory of life for granted.

In your own experience, when has some form of ‘exile’ opened your eyes to the goodness of life? Exile from health sure teaches us to appreciate the wonder and goodness of our functioning bodies. Being an outsider from family or in distant exile from home can help us treasure hospitality. The exile of hunger quickly makes food more delicious. Is that why it was traditional to fast, before Communion? Thanksgiving itself was established as a celebration of harvest plenty, within the pioneers’ keen awareness, of the uncertainty of winter food supply.

Often we need the reminders of deprivation to help us to savour life. But gratitude need not be the fruit of scarcity. It can also be born of the spiritual discipline of giving thanks – appreciating the everyday heaven this is. Gratitude as a practise will make our life and our world more kingdom of heavenly.

Can gratitude get us to heaven – really? I think so. I understand ‘Kingdom’ as Creation’s quantum reality. Through the mind-bending discoveries of quantum physics, we can understand now that the energy of our presence and attention alters the reality of the physical world. As observers, we are indeed, constantly co-creators, projecting with our minds, effecting with our intentions, everything that we relate to. Our thoughts actually participate in the arrangement of energy, matter and molecules. In this way, the practise of gratitude, which involves the directed energy of intention, helps us live in God’s Kingdom. Thankfulness practice conceives perfection. So let us always, in every day, give thanks.

I’ll close with a poem I found in “Earth Prayers” and read at staff meeting on Wednesday. My colleagues encouraged me to include it in this celebration. It is by Edward Hays:


O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher,

For I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.

As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty,

I sense all about you

An at-homeness with your amber riches.


You are the season of retirements,

Of full barns and harvested fields.

The cycle of growth has ceased,

and the busy work of giving life

Is now completed.

I sense in you no regrets:

You’ve lived a full life.


I live in a society that is ever-restless,

Always eager for more mountains to climb,

Seeking happiness through more and more possessions.

As a child of my culture,

I am seldom truly at peace with what I have.

Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received;

May I know that it’s enough,

That my striving can cease

In the abundance of God’s grace.

May I know the contentment

That allows the totality of my energies

To come to full flower.

May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure.


As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in you great bounty,

Let me also take delight

In the abundance of the simple things in life

Which are the true source of joy.

With the golden glow of peaceful contentment

May I truly appreciate this autumn day.


And every day. Happy Thanksgiving!




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