Philippians 4:4-9, Luke 17:11-19
Have you ever thought about the fact that we’re gathered here this evening to offer our praise and thanks to God, in celebration of a day that isn’t even a church holiday! Our official holiday of thanksgiving comes about by proclamation of the president of the United States—nothing having to do with church at all. And I hate to even bring up the way the day has evolved in the last decade or so. You know that shopping frenzy that used to come on the day after thanksgiving… you know its crept onto the day itself. If you want to head over to the outlets at Monroe you‘ll have to wait until 6:00 pm. But for an earlier start, go to JC Penney, they’re opening at 3:00 in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day.
So each year our president declares that we’ll have a day of giving thanks, and the good news is that the churches have jumped on board. That’s why we’re here tonight. And this is as it should be. Regardless of our circumstances, we have much to be thankful for.
Pastor Wes just read to us from Luke, the important story of Jesus healing 10 men who had a skin disease. What’s interesting for us today is that one man—the Samaritan, the outsider—who returned. He came back to say “thank you” to Jesus.
All the others followed Jesus’s instructions to go to the priests. But one turns around. Going straight to the priests isn’t good enough for him. He knew that his life had just been changed in a way he couldn’t have imagined …and he has to thank Jesus for it. And when he does, Jesus tells him: “…your faith has healed you.”
Now wait a minute…Jesus healed 10 men. Why is he singling out this foreigner, this Samaritan, telling him his faith has healed him? What does this guy know about faith? Well, it turns out that this is one of those places where it isn’t easy to figure out exactly what the Bible means. If we go back to an older translation, we can get a better idea of what Jesus is saying to the man who came back. The King James Version says: “thy faith hath made thee whole.” Once we get past those old fashioned words that many of us aren’t used to hearing, I think being “made whole” is important for us. All 10 men were healed of their disease. But this Samaritan was MADE WHOLE…and it was his FAITH that made him whole.
You’ve heard of an “attitude of gratitude”…that’s what this guy had. His faith was shown in his thankfulness. And that’s how we, as Christians, have to live. Most of us can easily come up with at least some things to be grateful for. We can be grateful for our material possessions, whether many or few. We can be grateful for another day of living—and we might even be grateful for having been cured of a serious illness, like the man in our story. I’m grateful for my family and friends, those who keep me surrounded with love and remind me why I’m here.
But for those of us who identify as Christians, it goes so much deeper. We know that our very life is a gift from God, and we give thanks to God for the gift of Jesus our savior. Without Jesus, our sin would keep us separated from God, but because of Jesus we know that we have God’s grace poured into our lives.
Is one day really enough to offer our thanks to God? Of course it isn’t. That’s why the Samaritan man turned around to thank Jesus…he was living a life of gratitude. I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea to set aside a day for giving thanks. I’m just saying that we need to keep our thanks to God front and center every single day.
A friend once told me a story that helps me remember to live every day with gratitude. This friend had decided to try to do more things to LIVE her faith and one of the things she started doing was keeping a small stash of dollar bills in the center console of her car. That way, if she saw someone asking for money, she could easily hand over a dollar, with a prayer that her dollar would help the person move just a bit closer to living a better life.
Well, one day she was stopped at a red light and noticed a man asking for money a few cars ahead. She reached into the console, pulled out one of her dollars and waved it out the window at him. She expected him to come right over to her car to collect the bill she was offering. But he didn’t…he took his time. The driver of the car in front of my friend kept the window rolled up tight…but the man still paused next to that car. Finally he reached my friend and she had to ask him why he had stood there, next to that car that clearly wasn’t going to hand him anything. He said that he stopped to offer a prayer and a blessing to each car that he passed, whether or not they offered him anything. He would be praying for her too. This man, who had so little that he had to ask drivers for a handout, wouldn’t pass anyone without praying for them. He knew God’s grace and was thankful for what he had in life—he had been made whole.
So I hope you’re able to enjoy a happy thanksgiving holiday. However you celebrate, whether it includes a turkey feast, family, shopping, or something else entirely, I hope it brings you joy. But I hope you don’t limit your giving thanks to that one day. I hope you can be thankful every moment of every day. For it is in living as God’s grateful people that we are truly “healed”…”made whole.”
November 20, 2016 ~ Community Thanksgiving Service, Edgewood High School, Trenton OH