Nov 23, 2016 Thanksgiving Eve
A happy thanksgiving eve to all!
A doting grandmother, against her daughter’s better judgment or wishes, took the daughter’s little boy to the beach one day. Grandma thought to herself, I will take care of him—yes, she would! But in one unguarded moment the boy waded into the water, and the tide carried him out to the ocean and toward certain death. The grandmother prayed for a miracle.
Then a wave, greater than any she had ever seen, splashed across the sands, broke in front of her, and deposited the little boy safe and sound at her feet. Did the grandmother lift her voice in grateful thanks? No! Rather, lifting her angry eyes toward heaven, she hollered, “OK, God, You brought my grandson back to me! But where’s the cap he was wearing?”
Have we ever blamed God for the lost ‘caps’ in our lives and at he same time failed to thank Him for the ‘little boys’ who were saved? This grandmother sounds like she could be one of the nine in tonight’s gospel lesson who didn’t come back to give thanks to Jesus for their healing from leprosy.
Like grandma, the 9 missed out on the blessing that comes from giving thanks to God. Oh true, she wanted the blessing of the returned grandson alright, but she wanted to dictate other blessing as well. Tonight’s gospel lesson is about the blessing upon blessing that comes to us because God chooses to give it. Not because we demand or presume upon it.
Listen again to verses 15-18. “One of them, when he was he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
I know we talked about this guy and his 9 buddies last month, but tonight with thanksgiving being tomorrow, we need to look at this again from a bit different perspective. I think this foreigner, this Samaritan, who comes back to thank Jesus was a Lutheran. In fact, I’m rather sure he was Lutheran, don’t you? No, not because he returned to Jesus crying out in a loud voice… heavens, that would never do for a Lutheran! But it was because he returned to Jesus to give thanks.
The only reason he would’ve done this is if, after noticing he was healed, he’d asked himself the good Lutheran question that we all learned in catechism, “what does this mean?”. What does this cleansing mean; he must’ve asked himself. What does it mean that this man, Jesus, answered our cries for healing?
There’s only one answer to that; Jesus had to be the Son of the living God of heaven. That could be the only explanation. These 10 men all cried out, like the grandmother on the beach, for a miracle from God. And like grandma, they received it… simply… by… asking.
With His words, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” Jesus answered their prayer. Luther has said of this episode of Jesus, that ‘leprosy wasn’t a sin, but that it signified sin.’ That’s important to remember. Leprosy was… no… sin.
That’s not to say that this man wasn’t a sinner, but rather that neither Jesus nor this man attributed his having the disease to anything other than simply… having the disease!
And in that way, this man’s leprosy does represent sin. Sin is something we all have and have need to be cleansed of. And sin is the disease that Jesus cured, on the cross, for everyone… forever. Jesus spoke – and these 10 men were physically cured. Jesus healed, by His divine word of power, power that our ‘Lutheran’ Samaritan friend recognized as the power that could only be from God. This man realized that and returned to give glory to God.
In the same way, Jesus spoke our healing as He was dying on the cross. He spoke the words, “it is finished”. And those words are our healing from sin. With no less power than when He said, ‘go and show yourselves to the priests’, Jesus spoke our healing from sin as something fully completed as He did His healing work for us on the cross.
A friend of mine wrote, “In a world filled with a ‘fix yourself mentality’, Jesus is a refreshing truth. Some things you just can’t fix yourself! Jesus knows there’re things in our lives, things that we’ve done, and things that have been done to us, that we just can’t fix.”
That, of course, points to sin in our lives. We just can’t fix that ourselves. So Jesus comes to us with His healing and forgiveness and He acts before we even ask. He comes to us in the words of absolution saying, “You are forgiven…go in peace”. And with His words He sends us, like the lepers, on our way; restored.
The Samaritan got it, while the rest missed it. And since he did and returned thanks, he received this blessing that Jesus gave to just to him: “Rise and go. Your faith has made you well“. In returning to give thanks for the work of God’s healing in his life, the Samaritan received a blessing missed by the other 9. The guy who came back to say thanks, got blessed yet again. Even our giving thanks is an opportunity that God can use to bless us. Giving thanks is always a good thing.
A doctor decided to write and thank a boyhood schoolteacher for awakening in him a love for English poetry. Weeks later the woman wrote: “I want to let you know what your note meant to me. I am an old lady in my eighties, living alone in a small room, like the last leaf on a tree. I taught fifty years, yet in all that time yours is the first letter of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning and cheered my lonely heart as nothing has in many years.”
From that time on until his death, the Dr. wrote thank-you notes to many people for the little things and many favors shown to him over the years.
Perhaps as you share thanks around your thanksgiving table tomorrow, you can come up with a few people from your life that you can write a note of appreciation to.
Remember our ‘Lutheran’ Samaritan friend returned to express appreciation for God giving him new life; a restored life that, up until then had been lost to disease. We too give thanks to God that our lives, lost to sin, have been restored by His gracious work and His powerful word of forgiveness.
My prayer for each of us is that, as we thank God tomorrow for His many blessings to us, that we would remember that our guilt has been cast aside in the shadow of the cross and that we would, like the Samaritan realize that only the power of God could accomplish that miracle. So, we too return thanks to Him and open our eyes to the further blessing of an even closer relationship with God that He longs for us know. In Jesus name, amen.
Sermon #855 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Deuteronomy 8:6-11 6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.
Epistle 1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Holy Gospel Luke 17:11-19 11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13andcalled out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.
17Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?
18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”