This is a brief sermon I gave yesterday at a midweek worship service for a few residents at Ennoble Manor, a care facility here in Dubuque. In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday this week, I shared two of the appointed texts for Thanksgiving, Psalm 100 and Luke 17:11-19.
This is a good week to gather together to worship. If you’ve been watching television at all recently, you’ve probably seen many many commercials about all kinds of ideas for Christmas gifts. It seems like every store is having sales for Black Friday. And I do like sales. And I certainly have nothing against Christmas gifts.
But here’s the thing. Even though it might look like it outside, it’s not Christmas yet! There’s this other holiday this week, that it seems like we’re skipping right over. Thanksgiving. And as Christians, we know that giving thanks is important.
Our story today from Luke about Jesus healing 10 lepers talks about this. Jesus healed 10 people and sent them away, but only one of them returned to give thanks. 9 of them left and didn’t come back. Hearing that, we might think of the 9 as rude.
But did the 9 lepers who left without thanking Jesus intend to be ungrateful? I don’t think they meant to be rude, or to not give credit to Jesus, or anything like that. I think they just didn’t think about it. The idea of going back and thanking Jesus simply didn’t occur to them.
Maybe they were shaken up by a break in their routines, or maybe they had a lot of other stuff on their minds that day. Maybe being healed was a little frightening to them, since it changed their identity, changed who they were. They identified themselves as lepers, and suddenly, that’s not what they were anymore. In some ways, maybe they weren’t completely sure that they were happy to be healed!
Whatever the reason, only one of them came back to give thanks to Jesus for the healing. The other 9 missed the opportunity to give thanks.
So what about us? How often do we miss the opportunities to give thanks? It’s easy to get caught up in what goes wrong, rather than looking for opportunities to be grateful.
One the most interesting parts in this story is that the 10th leper did more than just feel generally grateful. As we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving on Thursday, lots of people will eat a lot of food, visit with family, and feel generally grateful. But as Christians, we do more than that. Instead of just feeling thankful, we actually give thanks. The leper who was healed in the story didn’t just go away feeling better, he made the effort to come back and tell Jesus.
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize what we should be thankful for. We can get wrapped up in the gloomy news on tv, and forget to be grateful. I know I take a lot of things for granted, and I’m guessing that’s true for you as well. I can come up with little daily blessings to thank God for, and that’s good. It’s good to take notice of the little things we often take for granted. One of my friends, when she prays, she often gives thanks for chocolate milk!
I don’t have a miraculous healing to talk about, or anything specific like that. But in a broader sense, I have been healed, and so have you. Right after Thanksgiving, we move into the church season of Advent as we think about how God has come to us. We begin preparing for the next holiday, the celebration of Christmas, where we’ll celebrate that God loves us so much that God came down to be with us as Jesus. God has come to heal us, to make us whole. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has healed each of you. Thanks be to God!
Let us pray.
Gracious, generous God, thank you for this time to gather here and worship you. Thank you for all the blessings you give us every day. Open our eyes to see what you have done for us. Thank you for this time to focus on your love. Thank you for coming to live with us always, and for loving us, even when we don’t give thanks to you as we ought to. And thank you for chocolate milk. We pray in Jesus name.
[Thanks & Giving graphic via CreationSwap.com]