Luke 17:11-19 (Thanksgiving Eve)
“See the Blessings and Give Thanks”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
November 25, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Thanksgiving Gospel recorded in Luke 17:
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
The other week when my Mom was up visiting I made chicken noodle soup for dinner. When it was ready to serve, I looked in the drawer for the soup ladle. It wasn’t in the drawer I looked in. I grumbled. Then I asked my wife where the soup ladle was. She pointed me to the correct drawer. I looked, and came up empty. Of course, Mica was wrong. There was no soup ladle in that drawer. I grumbled. Next thing I know, there is Mica going in and pulling out the soup ladle from the very drawer that she said it was in. How could I have missed it? Does she have some kind of superpower for these things and I don’t? So thanks to my wife, I was able to ladle my soup into the bowls and we could eat, which is, after all, the best part.
I sure hope I’m not the only one with this kind of experience. You look for something and you can’t find it, and it ends up being right in front of you the whole time. When this happens, we use phrases like, “If it was a snake, it would have bit me.” Well, at least I would have found it if it had bit me! The reality is sometimes we miss the things that are right in front of our noses. A Coloradoan moved to Kansas and built a house with a large picture window form which he could view miles and miles of rangeland. “The only problem is,” he said, “there’s nothing to see.” About the same time, a Kansan moved to Colorado and built a house with a large picture window overlooking the Rockies. “The only problem is I can’t see anything,” he said. “The mountains are in the way.” Sometimes we overlook the obvious.
Perhaps that is what took place in our Gospel text. Acting on Jesus’ direction, the lepers go on their way to show themselves to the priests, and when they had departed they were cleansed. But something distinguished one of the lepers from the other nine. “He saw that he was healed.” This one leper took notice of, perceived, that he had been the recipient of a divine benefit and blessing. And that divine blessing happened at the hand of Jesus.
The nine who did not return to Jesus to glorify God and to give thanks are distinguished from the one by their apparent lack of perception. We are given no indication in the text that they recognized that they had been healed like the one Samaritan did. I wonder, is this a case of something being right in front of their noses and they weren’t able to see it? If they had, surely they would have done the same as this man who recognized that he had received divine benefit from Jesus and so would have returned to give glory to God and thanks to Jesus.
But before we become overly critical of those nine who failed to see the blessing and give thanks, let’s take a look at ourselves. Have you ever received blessings and benefits from God for which you have NOT been thankful? A few moments ago we reviewed the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed. We confessed that God has given us body and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members, our reason and all our senses, and still takes care of them. Are these not blessings from the Lord? Are these not benefits to us for our earthly life? When was the last time you gave glory to God and thanks to Him for your eyes, ears, and noses, mouths, fingers, and toes?
God gives us clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife or husband and children, land, animals, and all we have. Are these not blessings from the Lord? Are these not benefits to us for our earthly life? When was the last time you gave glory to God and thanks to Him for socks and shoes, for shirts and pants, for tables and chairs, beds and sofas? When was the last time you thanked God for your husband or wife, for your children and grandchildren? What about your land and property, your electronics and books, for your pets, for your “everythings”?
Perhaps we are more often like the “other nine” than we are the one? God so blesses us with all that we need to support this body and life. It’s right in front of us, and we so often fail to give God the glory and give Him thanks. Lack of perception leads to lack of gratitude. If you do not see the gifts of God you are probably not going to give thanks to God.
Is this not also true regarding the spiritual gifts of God—forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation? You come to worship. The service begins with confession and absolution. God, through His called and ordained servant of the Word, speaks His Gospel forgiveness into your ears, into your hearts, “I forgive you all your sins.” It is as Jesus were saying to you, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Your faith is the instrument which receives Christ’s forgiveness. But do we always give glory to God and thanks for this holy absolution? Do we always give thanks and praise to the Lord for His Gospel that offers, gives, and seals the forgiveness of sins in Word and Baptism and Supper?
It is important to remember that our response to the gifts of God—physical and spiritual—is totally dependent on the activity of God. We would not know of God’s goodness and mercy to us if it were not for Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is Jesus who reveals the heart of the Father to us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17) The heart of the Father is love for sinners who don’t always see the gifts of God before them and so give Him thanks. The heart of the Father is one of giving mercy without merit or worthiness in order to save sinners by grace through faith for the sake of Jesus Christ who offered Himself into death on the cross to save you. Faith in Jesus receives the gifts Christ’s death on the cross purchased and won for you—forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation from eternal death and condemnation.
God the Holy Spirit empowers us recognize the gifts God gives to us. The Spirit, as he did for the Samaritan, opens our eyes to see that we, too, have been healed of our disease of sin. He opens our eyes to perceive that God the Father is truly the giver of all good gifts, both spiritual and physical. And God the Holy Spirit enables us to respond to the gifts of God in Christ in appropriate ways, glorifying the Lord and giving Him heartfelt thanks and praise. Faith responds to the mercy and grace that you receive from your Father in heaven for the sake of Jesus your Lord and Savior.
It is definitely true for me. Sometimes I overlook the obvious. You too? By the power of the Holy Spirit, pray that you do not overlook the gifts that God blesses you with day in and day out, from the ordinary to the extraordinary. He has given you so much, so many things, your life, your body and soul, your family and friends. Jesus. You have the gift of faith in Him as Savior and Lord. You have forgiveness of sins and eternal life through His cross and resurrection. Your faith has saved you. Go and give God glory, thanks, and praise. Amen.