by The Rev. George F. Borghardt III
In the Name of Jesus. Amen. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercies endure forever.”
Sinners love Thanksgiving – for sinners are on the receiving end of all the things from God to be thankful for.
So, we know one thing about this man, besides being a Samaritan, a leper, a foreigner. This man simply MUST BE a sinner! That’s why he’s on his face, thanking Jesus.
Now, the Old Testament tells us that the Samaritans were foreigners that settled in Israel after the people Israel were exiled. The Samaritans adopted some of the religion and customs of God’s people. But when Israel returned from exile, they never quite mixed well again with those Samaritans. And the tension, the divide between them survived to the day of Jesus.
So that we hear in John 4 of Jesus speaking with a woman at a well; John must point out that it was so strange, because it was a Samaritan woman. You know, because Jews and Samaritans don’t mix.
Now, the Gospel of Luke shows us that Jesus had had some trouble with Samaritans. When the disciples came to a village of the Samaritans to prepare for Jesus’ arrival, the Samaritans did not welcome them.
They then asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans and their town.
But, Jesus rebuked them sternly. He had come to save the world, not destroy it. He had come to seek and save that which was lost – even the Samaritans.
So, later, we shouldn’t be with the shocked crowds when Jesus tells them of a Samaritan man who helped the robbery victim, though the priest and Levite had no mercy.
And now, today’s Gospel, gives us the sad fact that out of ten lepers cleansed, only one, a Samaritan again, comes and thanks Jesus, giving proper glory to God in heaven.
It’s seems that only the most wrong of us knows the most right way to glorify God! That should make sense to us, after all, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners!”
Which just further reminds us that Jesus has come to show mercy upon sinners, to eat and drink with them. He came to heal our diseases and carry our burdens. Even if 9 out of 10 cannot even say ‘Thank you.’ He still came.
With this in mind, it is so right for Christians to pause and thank God for all His benefits to us. Because we know ourselves to be the least deserving of all people! We should be grateful to God for a national holiday set aside for being grateful!
For then we can be reminded again that every good gift comes to us–not by chance, luck, fate, or our own plans–but from the hand of our heavenly Father. And there is no better way to glorify God than to fall down with that one man, ex-leper, at the feet of Jesus and thank Him.
You and I, dear Christians, know that the God Who made us is more than some sort of treat-dispenser, a candy-machine, one-armed bandit, who now and then gives out goodies.
Instead, our Maker has overlooked our attempted murder of Him; and He placed His Son among sinners, for sinners, to take their place.
So that now, baptized into His Name, confessing our sins and seeking His pardon, we know what most men in this world will never know:
The good gifts the Lord gives all pale in comparison to the gift of His Son.
Cleansing from leprosy is a good thing. But that Samaritan man came back, thanking Jesus. And therefore received a message that the other nine missed that day.
“Rise and go; your faith has saved you.” Nine got clean skin. One got salvation. The Gospels are full of this example.
Jesus fed the 5000 with bread and fish. But when they loosened their belts one notch and bellied up to the buffet a second time, Jesus told them that He had bread to give that a man may eat and not die. Most men turned from Him then.
The woman at the well wanted water without end, so that she’d never be thirsty. Jesus directed her to water that you don’t get from a well, but from the Word of God, from the Gospel of Jesus.
For nine out of ten–at least that one day–their visible, physical, emotional, financial crisis was taken away. And that is all they asked of Jesus. But ten per cent of the men that day knew that there stood something else, Someone Else, than just a healer.
Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem, to the Cross, for all ten lepers, even if only one put his face on the ground.
Then–glory to God!–with face to the ground, calling out to God in praise for what He had done, this man let everyone there know that for him, the man standing there was his Lord.
As you do, dear Christians, as often as you fall before the Lord, confessing your sins and seeking His pardon. As often as you eat His Bread and drink His Cup, you do proclaim the Lord’s death in Jerusalem, where He was going that day, until He comes again to save us.
So, what has God given us? For what do we give thanks?
Thank God for the harvest, for good food, family, friends, homes, cars, running water, a fireplace, a grill, an oven. But never forget why these things are yours. Jesus has cleansed you of the leprosy of sin.
Thank God for a free land, for our government, for the police and firemen, for your neighbors. Then, remember that God gives you all these good gifts because you bear His Name now in your Baptism.
Feast on the Happy Day of Thanksgiving. Then remember even then that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Before you eat, every day, every meal, let’s not behave like brute beasts, sticking our noses into the trough! Instead, let us praise our Maker, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And it is a good thing the catechism tells us, that we also return thanks when the meal is done, telling the world that we may have full bellies, but we have so much more.
This is what I love about our congregation. For we never fail to return thanks for what God has given us.
Food, yes. But, more than that! We have the Son of God, even His Body and His Blood, for the forgiveness of our sins.
We have bread that a man may eat and not die. We have water that a man may drink and never thirst again.
God makes us, grows us, heals our wounds and takes away disease. Then, He gives us more: He reminds us that we have for sure the Son of God in our flesh, the friend of sinners, the one who touches lepers, the one who went to Jerusalem in our place. And while we live we will praise God, thank Jesus. And when we die, well, God will not let His praises die. You know what that means for us!
Friends, This world is chock full of men who figure they deserve, they are entitled, they have good things due them, coming to them.
I would plead with you to remember tonight that: Jesus is truly your friend, if you admit yourself to be a sinner. If you receive a gift, and know it as a gift, and fall at the feet of your God; if you look around this world and know that YOU are the most blessed, because least deserving.
So, Thanksgiving teaches us to say thank you, out loud, in your prayers to God who gives you gifts, to men who give you something too. Start trying now. Saying thank you isn’t just for children, it’s for all of us. Thanks to God, thanks you to those around us.
God gives gifts, treasures, bounty, this world, this land, each other, His Word, His Son, the Sacrament, the Church–to people like you and me?
What else is there to say, than what the psalm tells us, what the catechism teaches us to cap each Holy Supper, and every meal together? “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever.”
Rise and go; your faith has saved you. Your Jesus has saved you. Now there’s a Happy Thanksgiving!
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever.” Amen.