Dear Baptized, healed and forgiven by God. May we all have a very Happy Thanksgiving this year. We do have much for which to be thankful.
We have people in our lives who care about us. People who are willing to listen to our problems. People who pray for us. People who only want the best for us. People who forgive us when we make mistakes, and people who need our forgiveness when they do the same. We have reason to give thanks.
But we’re only just getting started. We’ve always had clothing to wear. Food in our stomachs. A roof over our heads, a bed to sleep in at night, TV to watch, books to read. We have a stable government, we have law and order, and even when things don’t seem to be going in the right direction – most of all, we have Jesus Christ who not only rose from the grave, but ascended into heaven. There He sits at God’s right hand of power, ruling and directing all things in our best interest. He promises to make all things work together for our good.
That’s where things can get a bit dicey. Things often don’t seem to be going in the right direction. But let us give thanks anyway, trusting that God knows more than we do. And His promise is to make all things work together for our good. And God never breaks His promises.
Surely things did not seem to be going right for the 10 lepers in today’s lesson. Leprosy was a serious disease. It slowly chipped away at the body. Old Testament law required that they be separated from society. Yet, separation from society does not equal separation from the love and forgiveness of God.
In fact Jesus purposefully travelled this way, that He might meet them and help them.
It’s important to note that Jews and Samaritans were enemies. They didn’t associate with each other. That’s why the woman at the well was in shock that Jesus, a Jew, would even ask her for a drink. That’s why the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a Samaritan. The two races did not get along. The Samaritans had intermarried with heathen, and defiled the Jewish religion.
Still, that didn’t give anyone the right to hate them, or to hate any race. Love is supposed to be patient, and kind, and forgiving, and able to bear and endure all things.
How similar our world is today. How easily and quickly our nation becomes divided. And how easy it is to point the finger at certain classes, or groups, or races, and say, “It’s their fault.” But doesn’t the Bible teach that we all are sinners? And shouldn’t everyone’s confession be, “I am the chief of sinners. God help us all.”
At a time of great division, we can clearly see the one who unites. Jesus goes beyond all barriers, beyond all divisions, beyond all races. Jesus gave His life for us all.
The Samaritan descended from a race that clearly made serious mistakes, and yet, Christ healed him anyway. Christ is always there to strengthen faith, never to put it out, never to condemn a weak faith.
This story is written to give us confidence. No matter what our situation may be, God is for us, and not against us. Whatever happens to us in this life, whatever trial we face – God is not sending it to destroy us, but to help us, to strengthen us. He wants us to grow. He wants our patience to be strengthened. And that is reason to give thanks.
Why is it that the other 9 lepers did not return to give thanks? All 10 of them were humbled by their condition. All 10 cried out in mercy. But after they were healed, did that mean they no longer needed God’s mercy? Well, they were healed, why would they need God anymore?
Only 1 leper realized that He still needed God. Only 1 realized that we still need God’s mercy, even when we’re not in any immediate trouble. We need to be daily humbled before God, and to repent of our sins. Our most serious and pressing need is to have our sins forgiven.
That’s a lesson worth more than all the treasure this world has to offer.
I think all of us here today have good health. But even if we didn't, wouldn't we still have reason to give thanks? Thanks first of all that we still have a Savior, and we have the promise of eternal life, where there is no more sorrow, but only joy forevermore.
Thanks be to God. We never have to wonder or doubt, “Are things going to work out?” God says they will, and that settles it, and by Grace, we believe it. We can rely on that promise, and give thanks for it. He promises to make all things work together for our good.
Even if physical health is lacking, God has given us good spiritual health. He’s given us the gift of faith, and the gift of His Spirit who continues to support and strengthen our faith by the Word. Jesus says “thy faith hath made thee whole.” Literally that means, your faith has saved you. Your faith in Jesus has saved you.
For this, we continue to give thanks to God. “O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever.” In Jesus’ name. Amen