Giving thanks is a good thing. Less than 2 weeks ago we remembered those who served and gave their lives in the Great War which ended a century ago, as well as all those who have served their country. We gave thanks for their service and for our liberties as American citizens. We prayed to God thanking Him for giving them to us and begging Him to continue to guard and defend us through the ministry of His holy angels and the soldiers and lawmen of our land.
Today is the Day of National Thanksgiving. Our country asks us to give God thanks for all His blessings to us. Though today has become a day about turkey and football and family, it’s really supposed to be about God first and foremost. A nation that forgets the true God is bound to fail at some point. It is bound to reject His laws and created order. Only those who remember to be thankful for His gifts will live according to His will.
We heard today’s Gospel almost 3 months ago, on the 1st Sunday in September, Trinity XIV. The Church for well over 1000 years has paired that Gospel of the Thankful Samaritan with the Gospel of the Good Samaritan the week before. Jesus has found us. He found us dead in trespasses and sins. He used Holy Baptism to bring us back to life. That means He connected us to God – death is being unconnected to God. He gives us His Word and Sacrament to keep us connected to God.
The Thankful Samaritan is a real-life picture of that nearly dead guy Jesus talked about in that parable of the Good Samaritan. He’s not half-dead on the side of the road, but he is picture of a living death. You stay away from him because his flesh, though living, acts like it’s dead. This will kill him. It will kill him and all his comrades. Their time is short. They asked to be cleansed. Jesus told them to go see the priest. Off they went. The priest told them they were cleansed. Jesus had healed them. They all went home. They all forgot they ought to give thanks.
But one did realize he should give thanks. Faith told him he couldn’t just go home and pick up his life where it left off as if nothing happened. That’s what those 9 guys did. They forgot to give Jesus thanks for what He did for them. It didn’t matter to them. They just wanted physical blessings without the obligations that come along with them. They grew slothful with gluttony and forgot Who blessed them. Though they no longer had leprosy of the flesh, they had leprosy of the soul. They could have died of leprosy of the flesh and entered heaven. But now their souls were dead while they were physically alive and they could not enter paradise of the blessed.
But this 1 healed leper did not have leprosy of the soul. He recognized his obligation, even though he was at a severe disadvantage. He was a member of the Samaritans, a group of mixed Jewish-Gentile blood whose only Bible was an altered version of the Five Books of Moses. Yet he recognized, unlike those guys who should have known better, that their Healer is God Himself. So he knew what he must do. It is good to give thanks unto the LORD, to sing praise unto the Name of the Most High. So back to the Lord Most High he went. And he fell at His feet, praising and glorifying Him as God.
You do not have leprosy of the flesh. True, you may have other illnesses. It’s cold and flu season after all, and no family, it seems, is exempt from the scourge of cancer or other debilitating diseases or heart trouble. God may heal us through the work of doctors, but we don’t expect a miracle worker to come along and heal us. Yet you still have much to thank Him for, including those very doctors He’s given you! You don’t have leprosy of the flesh and I highly doubt you ever will, though you may have injuries or illnesses. But you have had leprosy of the soul. You were born dead in trespasses and sins. That means you had no connection to God. God is Life. He’s the Lord and Giver of life. He gives physical life, and He also gives spiritual life, but these 2 things do not come together. He gives physical life through parents, but He gives spiritual life through His Means of Grace.
God sent Jesus to earth so we could have spiritual life. He did not send Him to be a mere miracle worker or do-gooder or wise man. He sent Him to rescue us from the leprosy of sin. He sent Him to die for us on the Cross. He took all our sinfulness onto His back. Our sinful nature – He suffered for it until there was no more suffering to do. The ultimate punishment for sin is death. So He suffered hell as He hung there and then He did give up His life. He died and was buried.
Then He came out of the grave alive. He came out completely pure of sin. He came out and lives forever. He wants you to live forever completely pure of sin too. His holy Word tells you how that can happen. It invites you to trust in Him. The Samaritan leper trusted He would heal him and his faith was not disappointed. His faith, his trust, saved him. He believed his Healer is God in the flesh, and he was saved.
Trust in Christ and you are saved. His Blood has washed away your sins. Trust it. Believe it. Give Him thanks. This is the most important thing for you to be thankful for. Nothing else compares. Show it by how you live your life. Show it through your devotion to His holy Word and Sacrament. Receive Him when He is given. Hear His Word whenever it is proclaimed. Bring it into your everyday life, to your table.
Then thank Him for all your other blessings. Thank Him for this land we live in and those who serve and protect us here. Thank Him for your families and for the ways He provides for you and them. Thank Him for the food and drink that sustains you every day, and for the feast you will soon enjoy. Thank Him for the family gathering and even the football game if you watch it. Thank Him for the opportunity to prepare for Christmas, for His coming.
How can you do that? Take the time to reflect on your sins and what caused Jesus to be born of Mary. Give, not just your family Christmas gifts, but perhaps you cheerfully give more than you usually give to the missions and work of the Church. Pray God to bless the work of His Church, your families, and all mankind. Devote your life again to keeping His Law, His commands; that starts with studying Bible and Catechism to be reminded what He desires – it is good to hear from His Word every day.
God is very good to us. We don’t deserve any of it. We so often prove so unthankful He ought to withdraw His grace from us. A day like Thanksgiving exists to cause us to refocus again on the Second Commandment’s invitation to us to pray to our Lord God, praise Him and give Him thanks. It exists to remind us that everything we have is not of our own making. God Himself is the Creator of all things and therefore the Giver of all good things; He provides for everything we need for our body and soul. He provided everything that leper needed. He will also provide for you. He will not stop. He will provide until you leave this world, and then, O believer, you will behold His gracious face forever.