Higher Homilies: Thanksgiving

Rev. Mark Buetow

Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean?
God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

The Catechism we just read (Fourth Petition) teaches us that we pray for our daily bread so that we would learn to “receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” In our Gospel lesson, Jesus wonders why only one of the ten lepers comes back to give glory to God. Brothers and sisters in Christ: We are not here tonight to learn good manners. If thanksgiving is merely a day to say a polite “Thank You” for the things we have been given, then we could just send in a Thank You Note to church: “Dear God, thank you for the nice sweater and the new video game and all that stuff.” Of course we should thank God and give Him glory for even the smallest little gifts He gives us such as each breath and every heartbeat all the way up to the biggest gifts He gives us: His Son and the forgiveness of sins. But what does it mean to be thankful? To be thankful is to have faith. To be thankful to the Lord is to do as the Samaritan did: come back for more. Be where Jesus is. Believe and trust that Jesus is the only one who can and will take care of us. To put it another way: Being truly thankful to our Lord isn't about being polite. It's about clinging to Him because only our Lord will take care of us and save us and give us everlasting life.

I suppose that band of lepers is pretty typical of most people. They want something from God. They get something from God and then they don't need Him anymore until the next thing goes wrong. You know how it is: When everything's going well and you're healthy and have a job and your marriage is fine and your kids are doing well and there's money in the bank—when all that's going on, you don't really need the Lord. But when trouble comes, you get sick, or financial trouble hits—then suddenly its time to make deals with the Lord. To suddenly start praying a whole bunch. You might even start feeling guilty that you're having problems precisely because you weren't doing those things faithfully. That's Nine Lepers thinking! Repent! The nine lepers had a nasty, gross skin disease. They needed Jesus to heal them. So He did and then they were done with Him. They got what they wanted and until the next bad thing happens they won't come looking for Jesus.

But the Samaritan, as soon as he realized he was clean, cured of his leprosy, ran back to Jesus. Why? That's faith. Faith says, “Jesus healed me. If Jesus can heal a leper then He can save a sinner.” The Samaritan learns and knows that the only guy who can help him is Jesus. Jesus gives healing. Jesus gives life. So the only conclusion faith can make is that you'd better be where Jesus is. Where Jesus is, there is life. The Samaritan knows that Jesus has more gifts. He clings to Jesus. That's true gratitude, true thankfulness: to receive the gifts of Christ and expect that He has more for you. Jesus came in the flesh to die for your sins. He came to take your sins, carry them to Calvary and suffer for them there. He came to conquer death by rising from the dead. He rose and ascended so that He might send the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to you. He baptized you, marking you as God's own child. He absolves you over and over and He feeds you with the never ending feast of His body and blood for your salvation. That's not just for when you are in trouble, when things aren't working right, when things aren't going your way, when you a need shot of “pick me up” from Jesus! His gifts are for you always unto eternal life. His gifts are not just one shot deals but a continually flowing spring of forgiveness, life and salvation!

So how do you thank Him then? I mean, really, what do you get for the guy who has everything? What does God need from us? It's not “good manners.” As if God is not great unless we tell Him so! No, to properly thank the Lord, we do as the Psalmist says (and we'll sing these words in just a bit): “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?” That is, what can we possibly do to say thank you? “I will take the cup of salvation and will call on the Name of the Lord!” That is, I will come to Him and live in His gifts that He gives! I will take the cup of salvation. I will come and receive more of what He has for me. To be thankful is nothing other than receiving good things from the Lord and EXPECTING to receive those gifts and returning to Him over and over to receive them. To be thankful is to live in your Baptism each day, to open your ears wide to hear the voice of Christ absolve you through your pastor, to run to the altar of God as often as you can and feast upon His saving body and blood. Of course, we DO offer our formal “thank yous” as we pray, praise and give thanks, especially in our worship. But the real heart of thanksgiving is to live like the Samaritan leper: to be healed by Jesus and to run back for more. Because Jesus is all about that: giving gifts, then giving more gifts and giving still more, all the way through life into eternal life!

Ten lepers were healed. But only one was saved. “Go, you faith has saved you,” says Jesus to the Samaritan. What happened to the other nine? I don't know. All I know is that the Samaritan was saved because Jesus said so. What is the faith that saved Him? Jesus. Jesus is telling Him: You asked me for help and I healed you. And you have learned by the Holy Spirit to come back and expect everything good from me.” That's your salvation too, dear Christian, to to be where Jesus is and to glorify Him by receiving His good gifts. So be thankful! Come to hear His Word preached. Come to the font and remember what the Lord did there. Come to the feast as often as you can. Live as the Catechism teaches, that is, run to the Lord and spread wide your blanket or cloak so you can receive every good gift in Jesus. But that's not all! Come now to HIS Thanksgiving Feast, to receive more gifts, more Jesus. More faith. And then you too go in peace. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Created: November 26th, 2013