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Thanksgiving Eve

November 23, 2011

St. Luke 17:11-19


What are you doing Jesus?  Don’t you know who those people are?  We don’t have to tell you, do we? 


Stay away from them!  They’re contagious!  Decaying unto death as we speak!  Flesh rot! The walking dead!  You don’t want to catch leprosy, do you?  There are ten of them.  Ten times the chance of getting this decomposing, deadly disease!   


So keep walking Jesus!  Leave these poor better-off-without-you-chaps to their quarantined sentence of death.  So that you can go on with your resolute journey to Jerusalem! 


“Jesus, Master, have pity upon us!”


Come on Jesus!  You’re really not considering this are you?  You’re fast-tracking it to Jerusalem!  Isn’t this what you’ve preached over and over again?  So on to Jerusalem Jesus!  Get on with it!  Chop chop!


“Jesus, Master, have pity upon us!”


AND JESUS DOES A FULL STOP!  DELAYS HIS JERUSALEM JOURNEY!  HE PITIES THESE REJECTED, ROTTING, DESPISED AND DYING INDIVIDUALS!  He graciously turns to them.  His attention is entirely on them.  All ten are very precious to Him!  He’s there for them too. With all that He is.  With all that He has.  God-For-Them-Jesus He is! 


“Go show yourselves to the priests,” He commands.  That’s what you say only after lepers have been cured.  And as far as Jesus is concerned they are!  His words do and give what they say.  “And as they went, they were cleansed.”  Healed.  All ten!  None left out!  A miracle.  From God-For-Them-Jesus – the Great High Priest! 


Ten men are given their life back.  They could go back to their homes, families, jobs, and congregations!  Welcomed back.  Restored.  Cured.


The Lord’s astounding pity, mercy, and love risk betrayal.  Nine have no further use for Jesus.  They got what they wanted.  Now Jesus is a nothing to them!  They can live without Him!


Only one of the ten believes in Jesus and so returns to give Him thanks.  “One of them, when he saw 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.”


A Samaritan.  A hated half-breed, heretic Samaritan!  The last person you’d ever expect to believe in Jesus.  But He does. God-For-Him-Jesus has healed him.  And this Samaritan’s life is never the same again.  He cannot live without Jesus.  Jesus is everything for him! He shows himself to the only priest who counts:  Jesus — the great High Priest!  The Samaritan returns to the temple where God dwells graciously on the earth:  the body of Jesus!



And so faith in Jesus is manifested in praise and thanksgiving. 


And then Jesus gives even more to this Samaritan:  “Your faith has saved you.”  Not just physically but spiritually!  Eternally!  Faith saves because of faith’s object!  And faith’s object is JESUS the Savior!  


Giving thanks is more than taking inventory of your blessings, thinking thankful thoughts, and feeling gratitude in your heart.  Giving thanks involves the entire person.  Like the Samaritan — giving thanks means turning on the road, breaking away from the crowd, going against the stream, being inconvenienced, setting aside your plans, bowing down in humility at the feet of Jesus, and praising God with a loud voice. 


Tonight we benefit from the example of the Samaritan’s faith and thanksgiving.  Like the Samaritan we stand before Jesus tonight, every Sunday, and always as beggars with empty hands.  To receive everything as an undeserved gift from Him. Thanksgiving shows that we have heard the gospel and have actually received God’s grace.  That we believe that Jesus risked everything for us and for our salvation.  


Jesus doesn’t benefit from our thanking Him.  We do!  The more we thank God the Father through Jesus Christ His dear Son, the more we recognize how generously and bountifully He deals with us. 


Thanksgiving opens our hearts and minds to His hidden generosity. It increases our confidence in His magnificent giving and makes us more receptive to Him. It adjusts us to His marvelous giving.


No wonder the blessed apostle Paul urges us to present our petitions to God the Father with thanksgiving.   For when we thank Him for all the blessings that we have received, we confidently ask Him for more and more (Phil 4:6).  For the lepers it was healing.  For you and me it’s the healing that comes from His Word of forgiveness and His Body and Blood in the Sacrament.


Yes, eating the bread that is the very Body of Jesus, true and living bread come down from heaven.  Drinking the cup that is the very Blood of Jesus that purifies you from all sin (1 John 1).  Here is true thanksgiving, eucharist in the fullest meaning of the word.  Thanksgiving begins and ends in the Lord’s Supper also called the Eucharist – the Lord’s own thanksgiving of His own Body and Blood.  And in the Lord’s Supper’s liturgy we offer Him our “sacrifice of praise” and “call upon the name of the Lord.”  And He is there to meet us just as He was for the Samaritan who bowed at His feet.


So, “get up.  Go your way.  Your faith in Jesus has saved you too.”  For anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old has passed the new has come.    


Have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Happy eating and drinking this Sunday at the Lord’s Table!


In the Name of Jesus. 

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