Sunday, November 29, 2009


And it happened in the journey into Jerusalem, and He was going through between Samaria and the Galilee. And as He was entering into a certain village ten leprous men met Him--they stood far off. And they raised voices saying, "Jesus, Lord have mercy on us." And seeing them, He said, "Having gone, show yourselves to the priests!" And it happened as they went they were cleansed. But one of them, seeing that he was healed turned back with a great voice glorifying God, and he fell upon his face at His feet thanking Him; And He was Samaritan. And answering, Jesus said, "Were not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not found (any), having turned back to give glory to God if not this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Having arisen, go. Your faith has saved you."

Thanksgiving is 1 of 365 and 1/4 days of the year set aside in our nation to give thanks. That's only .0027% of the time! That sure doesn't seem like much. Add to that how few of our regular members are now here in God's house to give thanks, and we are doing much worse than the 10% of lepers who return to thank Jesus. The hard truth is, we just aren't very grateful people, by nature. We rarely take time to thank.

Just how often should we render the sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord for all His benefits to us? Is once a week enough, like on Sunday morning? Actually, God requires much, much more gratefulness from us. Our worship as Lutherans gives us a clear answer to just how thankful we ought to be as Christians, in the words of the proper preface the pastor sings just before communion: "we should at all times and in all places give thanks to you, holy Lord, almighty Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord..."

One reason we fail to be very grateful is that we don't give God the credit for all that He does. You work hard all week, put in a strong effort, and assume that you yourselves have earned good things for you and your family. But you fail to see that all your abilities, your jobs, your talents, your opportunities, and your very existence are things which God Himself has provided from His goodness and mercy.

So we do well to cry out with those lepers, the words of the kyrie: Lord, have mercy upon us. Jesus had mercy on those poor sick and dying individuals by speaking forth the words of healing for their disease of leprosy. He has done the same for you, as the message of His gospel love for you from the cross has cleansed you from the eternally deadly disease of sin as He proclaims to you, "You are forgiven in My Name" that you may show yourselves today in God's house to be fully healed in Christ's mercy alone.

Another reason we fail to be as thankful as we ought, is that we don't always trust God. How quick you may be to forget that this is God's church, instead, focusing your attention on what the people are doing or not doing. Satan loves to distract you away from the words and workings of your God, creating doubts like "Did God really say...?" or "Wouldn't you like...? Relying on God to provide for His church isn't easy.

That's why God provides you with the wonderful gift of faith, just like He worked it in the heart of the one grateful, Samaritan leper. You too have been provided with a trusting faith that recognizes God at work in all your blessings. The first works of God it recognized were most likely at the Baptismal font, where God brought you out of the darkness of this sinful world into the marvelous light of His Kingdom. There, your sins washed from you to the cross, Jesus welcomed you as a believer into His eternal family!

A third problem we have in our thankfulness is that we don't always focus on God's blessings. Like the nine, we take the good and gracious gifts of God for granted. Oh, you are happy with the nice things you receive from the Lord, but do you always stop to actually see them as blessings from above? Or instead, do you foolishly consider yourself a pretty good person who deserves such good things to happen?

To refocus us, God provides perhaps His richest, most intimate gift of all called the Eucharist. This word means "Thanksgiving", and is one of the terms for the Lord's Supper. The Communion meal is truly one of great thanks-giving, since what Jesus is giving to us is the most priceless gift of all. Not all the gold and silver of the world is equal to His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death that paid the price of your salvation at Calvary. Jesus gives you His body in the bread, His blood in the cup to save you!

Yes, there are many, many blessings for which we give thanks today, and regularly: clothing shoes food drink, house home, spouse children, fields animals, and all we have. But God gives us even better gifts for which we can thank Him always: His mercy on us that forgives our disease of sin, His gift of faith given in Baptism that we become God's children, and His body and blood given to save us in the Eucharist.

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