James C. Christensen was born in 1942 and raised in California.
He studied painting at Brigham Young University in Utah.
Inspired by the world’s myths, fables and tales of imagination, James’ work is considered to add up to more than a beautiful - if sometimes “curious looking”- work of art.
He has had one-man shows in West and Northeast USA and his work is prized in collections throughout the USA and Europe. He has won numerous professional honours.
He has been a frequent guest lecturer at Brigham Young University and has also given workshops to large companies and organizations on the subject of creative thinking, including the California Art Educator’s Association, Hallmark and Intermountain Health Care.
Luke 17: 11-19
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’14 When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests’. And as they went, they were cleansed.15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.17 Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’19 Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well’”.
In today’s reading Jesus was on the border between Samaria and Galilee when He was met by ten lepers.
We know that there was no fraternity between Jews and Samaritans and that the Jews looked down on Samaritans as a result of religious and cultural differences. But in this group of ten there was at least one Samaritan.
All were suffering from the dreaded disease of leprosy, but their common misfortune had removed racial and national barriers. They were simply a group of men in desperate need of help.
We have seen so many problems and disasters bringing nations together to help each other. Mankind needs the help of God; if only we could draw together as a result of that need in common.
The lepers stood “at a distance” forbidden by law to stand close to healthy people. One authority required lepers to stand at least fifty yards away. This demonstrates just how utterly isolated these people were and how difficult and meaningless their daily lives had become.
When they saw Jesus, they called out to him as “Master” and asked that He show pity to them. Calling him “Master” indicates that they had some faith in him, but Jesus tests that faith by commanding them to go and show themselves to the priests, who decided whether a person was “clean” or not.
Jesus did not heal them on the spot. He required them to journey and to present themselves to the authorities. “And as they went, they were cleansed”. We do not know exactly when or how. We just know that they were cleansed.
What we also know is that only one of the ten who were cleansed came back to give Jesus thanks. He returned, prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and glorified God in thanksgiving. Only now do we learn that he is a Samaritan. Perhaps Luke is indicating at this point that this man felt deeper gratitude because of his marginalisation as both a Samaritan and a leper, a double experience of living life at the edge.
But what ingratitude from the other nine! All forgotten, their longing to be cured, their desperation to re-join society. They had what they wanted and never looked back. This seems extraordinary to us, but is it not more common than we think, in earthly situations and in our requests of God?
For example, have we ever been grateful enough to our parents?
It takes years of care, nurture and support before we are independent. But what happens when our parents age? Thank God, many are supported by their children, but how many are viewed as a nuisance, in this increasingly selfish age? Not only does the elderly parent have physical needs but, from a child, reluctant or grudging help is emotionally wounding.
“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is, to have a thankless child”.
Are we ever sufficiently grateful to a friend, teacher or doctor who does something wonderful for us, so wonderful that we pledge never to forget and we cannot imagine that we would. But sometimes we do, as life sweeps us along to the next thing.
“Blow, blow, thou winter wind, thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude”.
And what of our gratitude to God? In times of intense need, we pray to God in desperation. When help is given, we give praise and thanks. But for how long do we remember what God did for us, or is still doing for us? But we can at least try in other ways to deserve his goodness and mercy a little better.
“Bless the Lord, oh, my soul, and forget not all his benefits”.
But looking back at what Jesus chose to do in this account by Luke, his attention to outsiders and the marginalised is evident from the start of his ministry. His reference to the healing of Naaman the Syrian at Nazareth nearly cost him his life then, as He was dragged to a cliff from which to throw him. The leper in this account could hardly be more despised and unwelcome. But these different and unwelcome outsiders are received positively by Jesus in Luke’s accounts, most notably in the Parable in which it is a Samaritan, not the respectable religious people, who demonstrates love for his neighbour and shows mercy to a wounded stranger.
The message of Jesus in this story seems to be at least twofold: Not only that we should be grateful to God for his many gifts to us; but He also draws attention to those on the margins of society, treated as invisible or unlovely because of how they look or where they have come from. Jesus clearly notices them and calls us to the same.
But we might also consider the parts of us that are hidden in the borderlands and outreaches of ourselves, where we may least want to be seen, but have most need to meet Jesus. He is not afraid of borderlands or remote areas and He does not mind meeting us in those places. It may be that by recognizing him there, we will find in our deepest selves a new outpouring of grateful love that makes us well and at peace.
“Lord, please forgive me for not being grateful enough.
Overwhelm my heart with Your power, goodness, love, and glory,
so that my heart will praise You in every moment.
I ask for grace to remain grateful for the rest of my life,
starting from today. Amen”.
“Listen to me, Lord, and answer me, for I am helpless and weak. Save me from death, because I am loyal to you;
save me, for I am your servant and I trust in you.
You are my God, so be merciful to me;
I pray to you all day long. Make your servant glad, O Lord,
because my prayers go up to you. You are good to us and forgiving,
full of constant love for all who pray to you.
Listen, Lord, to my prayer; hear my cries for help. I call to you in times of trouble, because you answer my prayers”.
* Can we see ourselves at times so overcome with joy or relief that we forget to express our gratitude properly to those who have helped us?
* Can we find a way to correct that situation? Is it ever too late?
* Should we build in a prayer of gratitude to God each day to thank him for all He has done for us, the small things and the outstanding?
* Are there things we can do to express our gratitude by responding to Jesus’ call to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves?
* How can we help the marginalized and dispossessed as He commands?
* Do we have to think of new ways to help them, many now closer than ever on our streets and arriving in our towns?
* In a rapidly changing world, can we really ignore their need?