THANKSGIVING AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Deuteronomy 8:1-10 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
Philippians 4:6-20 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen
Luke 17:11-19 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus 'feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Small thanks. Small thanks, indeed! They had cried out, “Jesus Master, have mercy on us.” And he had heard them and paid attention to them, which was no small deal. They were Lepers after all … outcasts … unclean. Nobody heard them. Nobody paid attention to them. Because they were nobodies. Their bodies were quite literally being eaten away, worn away, right before their own eyes and before the eyes of all. No, it was not a pretty sight. They were the living dead - the stuff that horror movies are made of. On the verge of being bodiless, they were nobodies to everybody and especially to somebodies like Jesus.
But not only had He heard them and paid attention to them, He wondrously, miraculously, graciously healed them. Bodiless, they were given back their bodies and made somebodies again. Until you’ve been a real nobody, and I’m not talking about a school yard nobody or even a workplace nobody - where you are left out because you’re not part of the “in crowd”, although those sad hard places can give some small idea of what it would be like. No, I’m talking about being a real nobody, a leprous nobody, a nobody who makes people turn away with pure disgust in their faces. Yes, until you’ve been one of those you simply can’t imagine all that Jesus did for these 10 who lift up their voices to Him.
Not only does He look towards them instead of turning away from them … not only does He look upon them with compassion instead of disgust, with His Healing Word spoken by His healing voice, He saves them from the turning away of others and removes the disgust from all their faces, even as He saves them from a life of terrible pain and suffering. Mercy? Mercy, indeed! Beyond imagining. Beyond measure. And yet, there is only the one who returns praising God with a loud voice, to fall on his face at Jesus’ feet and give Him thanks. Ten had called on Jesus to turn to them but only one returned to Him. Ten had lifted up their voices to cry out but only one praised God with a loud voice. Ten had pleaded for mercy but only one gave Him thanks. Small thanks. Small thanks indeed.
Where are the other nine? Is it any surprise that He asks? Wouldn’t you? But He’s different isn’t He? We’d ask because we’d want to know. As very God of very God He already knows. He can see each one of them on the road to the priests to be declared clean so that they could go home again. More than that, He knows what’s in each of their hearts as they go along their merry way. He knows that it hasn’t crossed their minds to join this Samaritan on his face in thankful worship before Him. So why ask? The nine aren’t there to be brought to repentance by His pointed question. It can’t be to make the one feel like He’s so much better than the others, that would go against every warning that He gives against sinful pride.
So why ask? Well, who’s listening? His disciples, which by God’s rich grace includes you and me this morning. You see the Word of God is unlike any other word. It’s not just a story or a report of some events of long ago. It’s not just some old tale or history. Neither is it a myth or fable with a moral to pass along some time worn wisdom. It is a spirit filled living word that carries the voice of Jesus across the ages to you and so brings you before Him. Through His Word the Lord Jesus is actually speaking to you as the Holy Spirit draws you into it. And so today in this place the Lord Himself looks into your eyes and asks you, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
But why? Why ask you? How can you have a clue? Unlike Him you cannot see across distance and time. Let alone know the secrets of men’s hearts. So why does He turn His gaze upon you this morning to look into your eyes with His own sorrow and grief filled ones and ask? It is not, beloved, so that you can answer back, “I have no clue Jesus, how those kind of people think or what they do because as you can see I am here today.”
No, no, beloved. Jesus asks because He wants us to look into His eyes and see that grief and sorrow that such ingratitude brings to his heart - the same grief and sorrow that we bring to His heart when we act like the nine … when we fail day by day to thank Him for everything that He opens His hand to give us … when we grumble and complain about what we think isn’t going right instead of focusing on what is … when we look ahead and fret and worry about all that could go wrong tomorrow as if He hasn’t blessed us day by day up to this very day.
He wants us to look in His eyes and see the sorrow and grief that we have caused Him when we have not at all times and in all places given thanks to Him but have woken up day by day with a roof over our head, food on our plate, shirt on our back, shoes on our feet, and family and friends in our lives and gone on our way without a thought of Him let alone a prayerful word of thanks for it all, or far worse yet, looked at it and been discontent with it wishing that we had this or that instead, or that our families and friends were more one way or another.
He wants us to look into His eyes and see the sorrow and grief that we have caused Him when we have not lived day by day in thanksgiving for all that He has done to rescue and save us - the times when we let days go by without a thought of the cross and what He endured there for us and what it means for us … days where we haven’t remembered our Baptism and the forgiveness and life that He has poured out upon us in it … days when we have not pondered with thankful hearts how He has truly made us children of God - cleansing us not just from a disease like Leprosy but from the horrors of sin itself.
He wants us to look into His eyes and see the sorrow and grief that we have caused Him when we not only have failed to live in thanksgiving to Him for all of that, but have even lived as though He never did any of it, or that it doesn’t really count, or mean anything. We do no less, beloved, when we let sin, death and hell have their way with us, or plague us, or have a hold on us, rather than living in the fullness of Christ’s victory over them. Failing to thank someone is bad enough, but acting as though they never gave anything or did anything in the first place is far more grievous and hurtful is it not, beloved?
Yes, He asks because He wants you to look in His eyes and see all of that but He also wants you to ponder something else. Were not ten cleansed? Wait a minute that’s right. All ten were cleansed even though Jesus knew that only the one would return. Indeed, yes, this man with the sorrow and grief filled eyes is the one who is still gracious to the ungrateful … gracious and merciful to those very ones who put that sorrow and grief in those tender compassionate eyes. Yes, this is the God who came down from heaven to save the world full well knowing that they would hate Him and crucify Him … knowing that not only would the many not thank Him for it but damn Him for it - using the very name that He took on to be their Saviour to curse with.
Any doubt about the grace of of our Saviour for the ungrateful is put to rest this morning, as He not only turns His gaze upon us but comes here in His flesh and blood to speak His healing Word over us, “johnny come latelys,” when it comes to the thanksgiving department. Yes, unlike many others you made it here today, which is a good thing. Yes, the Holy Spirit has helped you to stand with the one thankful leper today, but I trust or at least hope, that you all know that getting things right with God one time doesn’t make up for all the times that you get it wrong. No, you can’t make it up but Jesus could and did make it up for you.
Jesus Master, Have mercy upon us! Yes, beloved, that alone can be our cry as we draw near to Christ today as He comes to us in His body and blood to not only cleanse us from all sin but as our High Priest to declare us clean, pure and holy in His name. And as He does that He wants us to look into His eyes as He turns His gaze upon us at the altar, and see not only the mercy and compassion that fills them as He looks upon us here, but the divine joy that radiates from them, as we call upon Him to save us. And what can small stony hearts like yours and mine do before such a sight but erupt with great thanksgiving in loud voices to such a gracious and merciful Saviour. Amen.