What are you thankful for? – Luke 17:11-19

The Ten Lepers. The nine continue on as the one turns back to worship the Christ.

What are you thankful for?  When you come up with something do you think of your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members , your reason and all senses, clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, or animals?  Those are some of the things listed in Small Catechism on the First Article of the Creed.

What are you thankful for?

Jesus had another question in our lesson from Luke.  “Where are the nine?”  Of the ten lepers only one made the effort to thank Jesus when he was healed.  All ten of the lepers had the same lot.  Everything that had defined them as men before was but a memory.  Their race and culture, their family names and friends, their careers and income didn’t matter anymore.  They were now defined by their disease.  They lived in exile and ostracized living together in their common misery.  And Jesus saved them from it.  He healed them, but only one recognized Jesus for who He is; the Savior.  “Where are the nine?”  Only a lowly Samaritan came back.

Many show their ingratitude in just this way.  They only give thanks when they think they have something really special to give thanks for.  The fact that an atheist may never stop to thank the Creator is understandable, but there’s an inexhaustible number of those who count on God’s existence and receive His gifts without ever saying thank you.  They do it day after day.

Everything we receive each day ought to be a wonder to us.  We ought to be awed by the members of our body and how fearfully and wonderfully we are made.  As Luther reminds us God made all our body.  We take our members for granted until we don’t have them or don’t function anymore.  Simple things like our eyes, ears, and hands we so easily regard as something we have a right to, something we naturally should have by our own merit.  To live and be able to work, to have our families near us, to have food on our table, a Church to attend, heated rooms, clean water to drink, become things we take for granted.  That’s why it’s such a needful reminder to give thanks to God for something as simple as a piece of bread, a cup of water, or even your thumbs.

The attitude which takes things for granted is an attitude of dead faith.  God becomes something in the background.  An insignificant extra in your personal movie.  Only when things get difficult does He come into the picture and that for a cameo appearance.  The company starts laying people off, a natural disaster strikes, a loved one dies, or there’s a drought—and then everyone thinks God should come to the rescue and answer how we expect.

The problem is we don’t know who God is.  We’ve reduced Him to a personal butler in the sky who does our bidding when asked.  He’s in reserve for an emergency.  But that is because we don’t see Him when He is closest to us; that is in every event of daily life not just the emergencies.  Everything you see around you, everything that grows and blooms, everything that lives and moves inside our bodies, every cell and tissue exists because God exists.  As He spoke at the beginning “Let there be…” so everything you touch, feel, hear, see, and tastes is possible.  We don’t realize how He says “Let there be…” in each and every new moment and how dependent we are on His creative Words.  Even at this moment as you read this text God says “Let there be…” so you are able to give thanks for life.  “Where are the nine?”  They don’t recognize the Lord’s hand in everything.  They don’t recognize how close God is to us all each day.

The nine lepers didn’t recognize where God comes closest of all.  He is closest to us in His Son whom they had cried to for mercy.  It’s in Jesus that God’s provision and creative power is complete.  The Scriptures teach that God the Father created all things through His Son.  On Christmas the Creator became a creature himself.  Jesus, though He is Almighty God, became a man like us.  He too became dependent on the Father for His daily bread.  To His dying breath on the cross Jesus commended himself into His Father’s hands; trusting the Father to be the source of His life and the resurrection.  How strange this seems to us since we know Jesus is God in the flesh.  But even within the mystery of the Holy Trinity we see in the relationship between the Father and Son dependence on one another.  The Son depended on the Father for all things for His body and spirit.  The Father depended on the Son to accomplish our salvation; to save all mankind from our thankless rejection and thoughtless rebellion against our loving, life-giving, and life-restoring, Creator God.

We are dependent on God for more than just our bodies or our life in this world.  We are dependent on Him for our eternal lives.  Consider the ten lepers.  All ten were healed, but only one recognized the giver behind the gift.  Only one recognized there was something more to this healing than the healing alone.  Jesus may not have healed us from leprosy. But he has healed us from something infinitely greater. Jesus Christ drew closer to us than we can ever understand.  He became the “disease” that is common to all men.  As St. Paul wrote, “He who knew no sin, became sin for us.”  He died for us on the cross taking away the disease of your sin and your death. In the waters of Baptism, the forgiveness won by Christ on his cross was applied to each of us. God called us by name, set us on the journey of faith, and healed us. That’s more than enough reason to thank and praise God!

The Samaritan leper came back and fell at Jesus’ feet.  This wouldn’t be lost on Luke’s contemporary hearers.  This Samaritan was giving to Jesus what only should be given to God; worship.  So we too having been healed from sin and given everything we need for this body and life worship.  WE gather in worship around God’s Word and the Sacrament, the Eucharist (the Greek word for “thanksgiving”). In gratitude to God, “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings [are] made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:1–2).

So for what are we thankful? There’s almost too much to count! All our material blessings, the privilege of having been made children of God and heirs of heaven, the blessing of Christ who draws near to us in our joys and sorrows, living in a nation with freedoms, rule of law, and freedom to worship the one true God. These are all gifts we have received and continue to enjoy. Thanks and praise to God in Jesus Christ!  Amen.

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