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Trinity XIV, September 2, 2018 - St. Luke 17:11-19

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Posted: Sunday, September 2nd, 2018 by Pastor Westgate

Why is it so hard to say “Thank you?” I know it’s hard. Our kids get something and go without a word. It was one of the hardest things for my mother to teach me. I took forever to get around to writing thank you notes after Christmas or my birthday. I had to be constantly reminded to say “thank you” when people gave me stuff too. Mom’s training got me to the point that I now almost always write a note within a day of receiving a gift. Then I hope I remembered it all. Why is it so hard to say?

I don’t know. But as I contemplated this I wondered: is it because we think we deserve what we get? Do children think people are supposed to give them stuff? Do we think maybe we deserve things because we’re especially good or because relatives just have to do it? Why do we think we’re so deserving? Or do we just forget? Do we really appreciate the gifts people give us? Do we have so much stuff that another thing doesn’t really matter and will be quickly forgotten?

Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with those 9 lepers in today’s Gospel. They thought they were deserving, or at least once they were cleansed they didn’t care anymore. They went right back to life as usual and forgot they had just been in a leper colony, a living death sentence!, and only escaped due to a divine miracle they begged for. They got what they wanted. Once their wants were fulfilled, they forgot the needs of their souls and kept on filling up their wants as only they knew how.

The tenth leper did not forget His spiritual needs though. He remembered those needs are far more important than physical wants. He returned to Christ. Ironically he was a Samaritan, descended from Hebrews who married Gentiles when the Assyrians repopulated the northern kingdom. Their only Bible was an altered version of the Five Books of Moses. He returned and gave God thanks. He is told his faith saved him. He believed Christ his God had healed him. So he did what you do when God blesses you: he gave Him high and hearty thanks and praise.

Last week we heard the story of the Good Samaritan. That’s why the Church has us hear about the Thankful Samaritan today. The Good Samaritan is a picture of what Christ our God is doing for us. You remember the story: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked and robbed and nearly killed. The priest and Levite couldn’t help him, but a Samaritan did. He bandaged him up, took him to a hotel, cared for him, and left him in the care of the innkeeper. He even promised to pay him back when he returned.

Think of yourself as that guy nearly dead. That’s what sin has done to us. Satan robbed us of our innocence and immortality when he tempted Adam. He robbed us even of the desire to please God. So the Law can’t help us. We can’t keep either table by our own strength and will. We can’t love God with all our being. We can’t even love our neighbors more than we love ourselves. We can try all our days but it will never happen. We didn’t trust God when we were born: that earned us eternal death right then, and you can’t escape that death sentence on your own two feet. You need nothing less than a divine miracle.

So that’s what happened. A divine miracle happened. The Divine came down to earth. He was rejected by His people, just like the Samaritans were rejected. He was even called one once. He put us up, not on a donkey, though He did ride one on Palm Sunday, but on His own back as He was nailed to The Cross. He has no mere oil and wine for you, but the Sacraments of the sin-cleansing waters of Baptism and of His holy Body and precious Blood. He has placed you in His Church to be cared for by the pastor. To him He has given no mere coins but the Law which tells you you’re a sinner worthy of death and the Gospel which tells you Jesus died to make you a saint. He is coming again to raise us from the dead and to reward us in His mercy for our works done in faith towards Him.

So are you thankful for what your Good Samaritan has done for you? Are you a thankful Samaritan? That’s what The Church asks you today. Are you thankful for His grace? Does it show in your life and your behavior? After all, thanksgiving is really just another word for sanctification. Or do you just go through the motions, maybe pretend to be thankful sometimes, but most of the time it doesn’t factor into your life, your thoughts, your actions?

That may actually be one of the most pressing and difficult temptations for Christians. Life finds so many ways to consume us. Schools and sports keep on demanding more and more from our children. Work takes us away more and more from home and family. Then there’s the computer which finds a way somehow to suck us into its own reality. By the time we’re done, if we haven’t scheduled time with God’s Word, it doesn’t happen, not because we didn’t want it, but because we ran out of time and forgot it.

We do need to think about what happens when God slips out of our lives. You see that’s a lack of thankfulness. If we’re thankful, then we’ll make sure He has a regular part. What happens if we let time in His Word slip away is our faith will begin to slip. Faith does get weaker without God’s help, help He only provides through His Word and Sacrament. Faith can even die. This is a thought that should terrify every Christian!

So how do we show we are thankful for God’s grace? Fill your life with His grace. How do you do that? A healthy spiritual life is centered in that grace. It flows out from this place, from the weekly hearing of God’s Word and receiving His Sacrament. It goes home with you then. Don’t let the 75 minutes or so here be the only time you spend with Jesus each week. You’re going to spend all eternity with Him – look forward to that! – so prepare for it now. Spend time with Him in His Word every day. You can use Portals of Prayer and/or our Family Prayers insert. Study the Catechism at home too – that’s what I’m doing at home this Church Year. Sing our Lutheran hymns. Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day, make sure you take the time to spend with Jesus every day with His Word and prayer. Yes, even tell Him “Thank you.”

That spiritual life won’t stay at home. It will go out with you. It will show in your behavior. After all it is through His Word and Sacrament that God keeps us from all things hurtful and leads us to all things that are profitable to our salvation. He reminds us how to live since we’re His children, and we in turn want to please Him because we’re thankful for His grace and because He’s our dear father. Thanks for God’s grace is always focused on His Word.

Why is that? Because faith saves you. Faith trusts God’s Word. It does not trust that I’m good enough to keep believing. It trusts God Who tells it to hear His Word and believe it. It says, “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” It gives thanks to the Lord and sings praises to the Name of the Most High. It shows forth His loving-kindness in the morning and His faithfulness every night. It confesses our sins and confesses faith in the Gospel. It holds onto God’s promises. That saves. So “Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God. It is meet and right so to do.”

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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