When I was young, I didn’t like to write thank you notes. It just wasn’t important to me. I wasn’t as thankful as I should have been for the gift. I hadn’t learned to appreciate things, to be thankful for what my relatives had given me. I suppose I hadn’t learned to appreciate what God had given me either.
Do you appreciate what God has given you? Are you thankful for it? Do you realize how much He’s given you, how much He gives us every day? Do you recognize His mercies that are new to you every morning and what His benefits are? Do you realize you don’t deserve His merciful goodness? Do you desire to acknowledge His mercies, give Him thanks, and serve Him willingly?
The Samaritan in today’s Gospel wasn’t sure whether he’d get any help from Jesus. Messiah was for Jews, and he wasn’t a Jew. He had Jewish blood in him, but it wasn’t pure. It was mixed with Gentile blood the Assyrians had settled in Israel about 700 years before. His religion wasn’t pure either. The only Bible he accepted was the books of Moses altered to say they should worship at Shechem instead of Jerusalem. If Jesus was for Jews, why should He help a Samaritan?
The Jews in today’s Gospel weren’t any better though. They’re picture perfect of what Thanksgiving Day wants us to not be. They weren’t thankful for God’s grace. All they wanted was physical blessings. They didn’t care one bit about the spiritual blessings Jesus provides. They only wanted healing so they could go back to their old lives and fun and games. As soon as they knew they were healed they took off for home and never thought about Jesus again.
Why should Jesus help you? Why does the Collect admit we don’t deserve Almighty God, our heavenly Father’s, goodness? The Old Testament reading mentioned that God was humbling the Israelites during their 40 years wandering in the desert. He was revealing what was in their hearts. Was it faith and love towards Him or unbelief and hate? What’s in your heart? Why does St. Paul have to talk about Jesus saving us?
God had weighed Israel in the scales and found them lacking. Only 2 people who left Egypt entered the Promised Land: Joshua and Caleb. The rest rebelled and did not love God. They wished they could go back to Egypt and resented their wandering. So God refused to let them into the land flowing with milk and honey. They weren’t thankful for being rescued from slavery. They actually wanted to go back! So they didn’t get the gift God wanted to give them.
Are we like them? We’ve never been enslaved in Egypt and we aren’t Samaritans. We’re Gentiles, with more books of the Bible than the Jews had thanks to the New Testament. We have different blood, a different culture, and we’re on the other side of both the cross and the world, but we still are the same. How? We still have the same sinful heart that’s been beating ever since Adam fell for the forbidden fruit.
That heart shows it’s sinfulness this way: it thinks it deserves everything good in life and nothing bad. It’s offended when it doesn’t get its own way and when God doesn’t give everything we want at the snap of a finger. It desires without considering what’s good for us. It’s never happy with what it has, but wants more and more and fixates on it. It is not content, is full of greed, and in reality, wants God to be our slave – that would make us God’s gods. It is never thankful for what He gives, but only demands more.
We all have this heart. We all give in to it more often than we like to admit. The desire for more fills us. It doesn’t help that it’s in the air we breathe, so we forget to step back and admire what God is doing. We forget to acknowledge our food is from Him, our clothing and shoes, our families, our homes, our weather, our government, yes, absolutely everything. Do you remember the massive list Dr. Luther gives when he teaches us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread”? And when you are thankful, do you live from that thankfulness or do you soon go back to the greed of the world?
When you realize your thankfulness has been lacking or shallow, turn to the Lord in repentance. Beg Him to forgive your sins. Believe that He does forgive. That is what the Samaritan believed. He forgives us because He won forgiveness for us with His life and death. How do we see that in The Gospels?
The Passion of Our Lord begins with an example. All 4 Gospels include an account that shows our Lord’s thankfulness: His response to Lazarus’ sister Mary washing His feet. She did this out of joy and thanks that her brother was alive again, but she also did it believing Jesus was soon going to die to give us eternal life. He says she anointed Him to prepare Him for His Burial and that this account would be remembered forever – He was telling His disciples to write it down in the Gospels. What thankfulness! This thankfulness earned forgiveness for you for all the times you have not been thankful. It is credited to you and God sees not your ingratitude, but Jesus’ thanksgiving, when He looks at you.
His Death has paid for your sins. His Death has paid the debt you owed for your ingratitude. His Death is the ultimate image of His merciful goodness towards you. There God shows He loves you with an undying love that no unthankfulness can ever quench. There He opened His hand to satisfy the desires of every living thing with forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
So let us give Him thanks and praise Him. Though we forget to thank Him, He still richly blesses us. He always is near with His forgiveness to guide and bless us. As you eat your meal today and spend time with your family, don’t forget this. They are all His gifts to you. Nothing would exist were it not for Him. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. He loves us and acts out of that love, for the sake of Jesus Christ, His Son. He provides all we need and perhaps even more. He provides for our bodies, and He provides for our souls.