Every day is Thanksgiving Day
Dear friends and neighbors of Northeast Kansas, greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
How about that rodeo Saturday night?! I salute the cowboys, cowgirls and all the fans that weathered the storm and proved that when the going gets tough, the tough really do get going. “…Hats off,” to all of you!
Yet, not everyone was thankful for the rain God so generously provided. And isn’t that the way it goes? We sometimes tend to focus on the one or two “convenient or especially beneficial to us” gifts and completely forget to be thankful for the rest of His blessings and the by-products of them, as in this case, the softer landings, the better choices of seats and for the shorter lines at both the concession stands and restrooms, not to mention the benefits the rain provided the crops, the water table and us in the form of cooler weather.
Maybe we should all ask our self, just what am I thankful for? Off the top of our head, we may not think of anything, but upon reflection, we may think of many things, as Martin Luther points out in his explanation of the first Article of the Apostles Creed, things like our body and soul, our eyes, ears and all our members, our reason and all our senses, our clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife, children, land and animals.
Last Saturday, many of us were reminded to also be thankful for roping horses, calves to throw or rope, bulls to ride, rodeo clowns, announcers, and for all cowgirls and boys for all the good work they do. As Martin Luther points out, “For all these things it is our duty to thank and praise God.”
But that doesn’t always happen, does it. For example, remember in the Gospel of Luke the story of the 10 lepers? In that story, Jesus miraculously healed all 10, yet only one returned to give Him thanks and praise.
I clearly remember reading that Jesus asked him, with what I felt was a bit of disappointment in His voice, “Where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17).
Good question, Jesus! And maybe also an embarrassing one, as we recall the times we were like the other nine. Forgive us for the many times have we have forgotten to say “thanks” for the wonderful gifts you’ve sent our way, especially for the gifts we needed most and didn’t even realize it.
I am reminded that even the nine who did not return to thank Jesus all had faith in Him, in that they all cried, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us?” (v. 13)
It’s important to note that some of their cries were merely prayers for what they perceived to be their greatest need, rather than a plea that encompassed all of their needs: even those they weren’t specifically aware of.
It seems they wanted a release from their leprosy, their state of uncleanness and an end to their separation from their families and friends, while ignoring their greatest need and a realization that the only person who could address that greatest need was standing right before them.
Consider how Jesus responded to their cry. He told them, “Go and show your selves to the priests.” (v. 14)
In other words, Jesus sent them to the place where they would be declared clean, no longer ostracized from family and friends and free to return to their homes and communities. So there’s no doubt that 10 men believed in Jesus. With the evidence of disease still visible, they went to show themselves to the priests. On the way, all 10 of them were healed of their leprosy. There’s no doubt that all of them rejoiced and were happy about what happened to them.
But yet, only one of them remembered who it was that had healed them. Only one of them, a Samaritan — an outsider to the Jewish people, at that — saw the God of creation at work in his life. This one leper saw God Himself in the man Jesus of Nazareth and only he returned to give thanks and praise to that God. He rejoiced not only in a healing that made him part of a community again, but also in the healing of his sin.
Consequently, he was not just healed of a disease, but more importantly he was reconciled to God – forgiven of his sins and the recipient of a new life. This Samaritan leper’s prayer for salvation to Jesus, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” is fully answered. Jesus tells the man to leave his worship and continue in the journey of faith. He tells him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (v. 19)
The salvation he prayed for is now his.
Dear friends, many people today are giving thanks for material blessings. Even people who normally have little or nothing to do with God do invoke His name and sometimes say, “Thank You.” But will they continue thanking Him? And, if so, will they thank Him only for some things instead of for all His blessings?
Maybe they will, but, maybe they won’t. Even you and I sometimes find ourselves weak when it comes to giving thanks and praise to God. We too tend to be better “askers” than “thank-ers,” treating God as if He is some sort of vending machine by all too often praying only in crisis, saying things like, “God, I pushed A1…and B3, won’t you please send those things right away?! I need them! Feed me Lord! Smooth things over between me and that other person! Defend me against from this danger or that! Make me happy!”
It is like we take God’s promise to feed us for granted. We ask for our daily bread, but then forget to thank God when we get it day after day. And the reality is – each of us has so very much to be thankful for! Consider again the 10 lepers in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus healed all 10 of them of an incurable disease, but only the Samaritan, the foreigner, recognized the Healer behind the healing. Only one of the 10 recognized the “Giver” behind the “gift.” Only one believed not only that God had healed him, but also that this “Jesus of Nazareth” was God.
The foreigner believed and returned to thank and give praise. His “Thanksgiving” flowed into “worship.”
Now, Jesus may not have healed any of us from leprosy, but He has healed us from something infinitely greater and more debilitating. Jesus Christ died for us on the cross to deliver us from the mortal disease of sin — from death, eternal separation from God and bondage to the devil.
Yes, you and I who believe in Christ and have been baptized into His name have been healed. In the waters of Holy Baptism, the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on His cross was applied to us. Then and there, God called us by name, set us on our respective journey of faith and healed us of our terminal illness. Isn’t that more than enough reason to give Him thanks and praise?!
So, cowboy up! Even under the darkest clouds or the pouring rains, stop and thank God for all of your blessings of body and soul. In Jesus’ name, “Yee Haw!” Let it be so!