By Emily Meeks
Now that two years of working virtually are over, I find that commuting by bike is one of the best parts about returning to an actual office. There are many things I love about these 45 minutes of pedaling each way — the chance to listen to a sermon or connect to The Daily Office, feeling winded up a hill (as opposed to sitting all day), and just viewing Seattle with its changing shades of dawn and dusk.
Recently on a ride home, pink sherbet light streamed through the trees at Green Lake, a park with a popular walking loop. The sunset grabbed my attention, drawing me away from the bike lane and closer to the shores of the water. All around me life seemed to burst forth — two friends in deep conversation, a mother with a young child in a stroller, and ducks zig zagging in the reflection of the setting sun.
I thought about how many times during the pandemic I saw the sun’s final rays coming through my home office windows, yet I never accepted the invitation to step outside. Now I pedaled home energized and grateful for taking the time for a deeper sense of connection of the Holy.
In yesterday’s Gospel lesson (Luke 17:11-19), only one of the ten men with leprosy sees that he is healed and returns to Jesus to show praise. Jesus instructs him to, “Rise and go,” as his faith has made him well. There is something in this man’s return to Jesus that shows intentionality. Jesus’ response recognizes the miracle of healing and transformation. It is a moment of giving thanks.
A few days after that sunset bike commute, I found rest and renewal at a friend’s prayer cottage, hemmed in by forest and sea. Beside the bed was a framed poem, “The Bright Field” by R.S. I was connected to a similar arc that I read in the gospel: seeing, forgetting, and remembering.
“I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for awhile and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your
youth once, but is the eternity that awaits
—R.S. Thomas, “The Bright Field”
The “turning aside” in this poem reminds me of the man returning to Jesus. All ten received healing from Jesus, but this one has not forgotten the source. He is unable to continue without acknowledgment —reminding me of the poem’s wisdom: “I realize now I must give all that I have to possess it.” Gratitude.
The next day, we visited another Episcopal church for Sunday services. The gospel was not the gospel from the lectionary and instead John 6:47–58. As the priest spoke, I felt amazed at the connections to the text that I am still thinking about in Luke. The priest observes that when we say thank you, we connect our experience to God as giver. This gratitude is at the heart of the Eucharist — coming from the Greek word eucharistia — the giving of thanks.
When we gather for Eucharist, we say thank you and leave reminded of the full presence of Christ to mark our steps forward. There is presence, power and transformation in the act of thank you.
I think back to the fading pink sherbet sunset and the ten men with leprosy in Luke’s gospel. I long for more opportunities to stop, turn, receive and respond with a full heart — to rise and go.
Emily Meeks loves finding adventure and connection outside, especially while running, biking, hiking and kayaking. She attends and serves at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.