Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve


Thanksgiving Eve 2012
November 21, 2012
Text: Luke 17:11-19

            “And what do you say?” your mother always said to you when someone gave you something nice.  “Thank you,” was the expected response.  To say “thank you” is to acknowledge the good that has been done for you by someone.  It’s more than simply good manners.  It confirms in the mind of the good-doer that you recognize the good that has been done.  This is not only gratifying to the good-doer, but it encourages them all the more to do good for you and for others.  Your mother was right.  “Thank you,” is a very important phrase.  And yet, it doesn’t come naturally, because we ungrateful sinners take the good others do for us for granted, and, in fact, we feel entitled to that good.  So we have to be trained, from a very young age.  “And what do you say?”  Thank God for mothers who teach us gratitude. 
            And while those mothers are absolutely right, that’s not the point of our Gospel.  Jesus is not moralistically teaching us to remember to say thanks, as important as that may be.  Rather, Jesus is teaching us how to thank God.  Of the ten lepers who were cleansed, only one gets it right, and he’s a Samaritan.  All ten were thankful.  Who wouldn’t be after healing from this debilitating disease, leprosy, that destroys the body and leaves the sufferer as an outcast from the community and in physical agony?  The nine who went away were just following Jesus’ instructions: “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14; ESV).  It’s what Moses commanded, after all (Lev. 13-14).  What this Samaritan got, though, that the others didn’t, is how to thank God.  You thank Him by coming to Jesus as God in the flesh and as your High Priest, the one who makes the sacrifice for your sins.  “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” Jesus commanded, and the Samaritan comes to Jesus, the High Priest who offers Himself in sacrifice for the sins of the Samaritan, and for you, and for the whole world.  The Samaritan falls down before the flesh and blood feet of Jesus and worships God.  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18).  You worship God by worshiping Jesus.  He is God and the only way to the Father.  Rise and go your way,” says Jesus to the Samaritan; “your faith has made you well” (v. 19).  You give thanks to God by believing in Jesus, by trusting Him, by asking Him for help and salvation, by receiving from Him the gifts He longs to give you as your God and Savior: the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation, and every good gift besides.
            “And what do you say?”  We should give thanks to God for all that He gives us.  But it isn’t thanking God to think that we’re doing Him some kind of favor by remembering to tell Him what a good God He is.  That’s just patronizing.  That puts us above God and makes us His judge, which is precisely what our old Adam wants to be.  Repent.  Of course we should thank God.  But the question is how?  Dear Christian, you know.  The answer is the same for you as it is for the Samaritan.  By thanking God in the flesh of Jesus Christ.  By believing in Him and receiving His gifts with joy.  You thank God by receiving.  You thank God by receiving the forgiveness of sins and divine teaching in the Word of Christ.  You thank God by living in the new birth He has given you in Holy Baptism.  You thank God by coming to His Table to feast on the Sacrifice Your High Priest has given for you, His true body and blood, Jesus Himself the Host and the Meal.  You give thanks to God by receiving Jesus.
            It’s always interesting, some might even say “heartwarming,” to watch children open presents on Christmas morning.  It’s often a scene right out of A Christmas Story: Ralphy and his brother, little Henry, tear into the presents, take a brief glance at the contents, before tossing whatever it is aside and ripping into the next one.  We smile.  Kids.  But it’s not very thankful, is it?  Even if Mom chides, “And what do you say?”  The fact is, if the kids were really thankful for the new Christmas socks, they’d say, “Alright!  Socks!  Just what I needed!  Thanks Mom and Dad.  Thanks and praise be to God.  I can’t wait to try these babies out!”  You see, true thankfulness would receive the socks with joy, hold onto them as a precious treasure, and make use of them, remembering with each use the love of the giver who bestowed the socks.  Incidentally, my wife’s first Christmas gift to me… you guessed it!  I still have a couple pair in circulation 9 Christmases later.
            You’re the Samaritan, beloved.  Not even one of the Jews, the other nine, our Lord’s own people.  You have no right to expect anything from Jesus.  You’re a Gentile, a sinner.  You just confessed it a few minutes ago.  But your Lord Jesus also said to you a few minutes ago: “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.”  Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”  How do you thank God for His indescribable gift in Jesus Christ?  Not to mention every other good gift besides?  You do as the Samaritan did.  You praise God in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.  You believe in Him.  You receive from Him.  You receive Him in His flesh, in His body and blood in the Supper.  In fact, the Greek word for thanksgiving is ε͗υχαριστία, Eucharist.  You give thanks to God by coming to the Eucharist, receiving the Lord’s body and blood, for the forgiveness of all your sins, receiving it with joy, holding onto it as a precious treasure, making use of it for that which Jesus gives it, and remembering the love of the Giver who here bestows it, His love that took Him all the way to the cross and bloody death for you.  Thanksgiving to God doesn’t begin with your efforts to please Him or your assurances that He’s doing a good job.  Nor does it consist chiefly in gorging yourself on turkey while watching football at home with the family.  It begins at His Church, at His house, receiving Him as He comes to you in His Word and Supper.  It consists of holding Him in faith as God’s most precious gift to you, never tossing Him aside for other stuff, even if it be good stuff.  You want to give thanks to God?  Receive Jesus in faith, as the Samaritan did.  It’s a Eucharist, a thanksgiving marked by receiving more and more gifts. 
            And this leads to your whole life becoming a sacrifice of Thanksgiving.  Having received all from God in Christ, you give yourself for others, for your family, your friends, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and everyone else with whom God places you in relationship.  The love of God in Christ flows to you in His gifts by faith and through you to your neighbor in love.  God loves your neighbor through you.  Your neighbor gives thanks to God because of you.  And this service God has given you to do, this sacrifice of the self, this, too, is His gift.  It’s all His gift.  Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from Him.  “And what do you say?”  Simply this: “Amen,” as once again you open your mouth to receive His body, His blood, for your forgiveness and life. 
            Of course, we Christians know it is good, right, and salutary for us at all times and in all places to give thanks to God in Christ.  Our mother, the Church, taught us that.  But now as our country calls upon us to come together on this National Day of Thanksgiving to give voice to our nation’s gratitude, we gladly oblige.  We sing hymns of praise as we come and kneel at the altar to receive.  It’s what the Church does.  She receives what God does for the Church and for the world: He gives His Son.  Thanks be to God.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.    

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