Archive for October 13th, 2013

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.     Now he was a Samaritan.                  Luke 17: 15-16

The lepers all prayed in faith: Lord, have mercy. Lepers could not get close to the healthy and this is reason they stood afar off. They were unclean.  They were all abject beggars. The Lord had mercy on them. He healed them.   His hand by and through His Word healed them all.  As the prophet Isaiah preached,

For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
    and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
    and who will turn it back?

Not one of the lepers wanted the Lord’s hand turned back. He did not.  He purposed their healing, but nine of those men received the gift but did not give thanks to the Giver. Many want salvation but do not love the Savior and give Him thanks.  Ingratitude is a great blasphemy. It cuts off the Giver. The nine did not turn back to the Lord their God but turned their backs.  This teaches us that ingratitude is a great disgrace, without grace.  It says this is mine, I deserved it. How can one merit a gift?  Then it is not a gift.  Gratitude is acknowledgement of great grace. It took a Samaritan, a despised outcast and heretic, to teach us the utter simplicity of thanksgiving. The Lord’s hand turned toward them all and the Samaritan turned back to the Lord praising and thanking the Lord.  He was still before the Lord.  Only by being still can your cup be filled.    “Oh, give thanks to the Lord for His mercy endures forever.”

 Luther preached that when he was a monk, they were taught to say when they received even a small gift, , “Benedictus Deus in omnibus donis suis”, that is,   God be praised for all His gifts”.  Luther thought this was good practice because it trained young men to give thanks to God for all things.  Grandma gives her grandchild a gift. There’s a pause. Mom quickly then says to her child, “What do you say?”  “Thanks, Grandma.”  We are taught to give thanks.  A colleague and friend visiting was amazed visiting VMI how polite the cadets were, that is, plenteous with their thanks.  I said, David, sheer terror teaches that fairly quickly.  Old Adam does not give up thanks too willingly. Before the Fall, thanksgiving would have flowed from the pure heart of Adam and Eve to the Lord and for each other and all of the creation, because everything they saw, touched, smelled, heard and thought was gift, sheer grace. Adam and Eve knew they were created and not the Creator.  His creation is still sheer gift. They gave thanks to the Lord’s Word even when they could not understand it.  But the serpent beckoned Eve toward herself, inward, away from the sheer grace of God’s Word: you deserve to be like God. The Lord’s salvation is to turn us out to Himself by the sheer giving of Himself for you, for us and for our salvation.  He gives us all His works and the greatest, surpassing even creation:  He forgave the ingratitude in us all. He gives us all His Word. He gives us all His works and all His Word for it is by His Word we have all His works. The Word of God is not bound. How hard is it to give thanks?  Your family, your friends, your co-workers, your teachers, your students, need to hear the acknowledgments of their kindnesses.    It won’t cost an arm and leg, even a thin dime.

 The words “ingratitude” and “gratitude” both have as their base, the Latin, gratia, grace.  Grace is a gift.  “Gratis” mean free, yet it is also translated, grace. The Lord’s grace of salvation is the greatest gift, freely given.  It costs us nothing but Him everything, His hands extended on the Cross receiving all the sin of the world.  Not one there at the Cross gave Him thanks and praise, yet He gave us all His life and His Word to the undeserving. 

 In Judaism, 10 adult male Jews,  is a “minyan”:   the minimum for a worshiping congregation.  There were ten lepers, a worshiping congregation, Lord, have mercy they prayed and the Lord sent the congregation to the temple and it’s priests.   The Lord’s Word caught them before they ventured further.  Now they were a healed congregation.  But once a congregation forgets from whom their healing comes, day by day, a congregation of those who were unclean made clean in His love, then that congregation is worse than a congregation of lepers:  a congregation of Pharisees, of the self-righteous. 

 The Samaritan gave thanks, the Greek for thanks, eucharisto, where the word Eucharist comes from. Eucharist is another name for the Divine Service, Holy Communion.  The Samaritan prostrate before His Lord is the verbal icon of the Church in praise and thanksgiving.  Monks were also taught that when a visitor came to their house, they were to prostrate themselves before the guest because they were welcoming a stranger, as Jesus was a stranger to His own. God’s Word of salvation opened the Samaritan’s hear, first physically but now spiritually in thanksgiving.  This is the only time in all the 4 Gospels that we read of someone giving thanks to Jesus.

 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
    in the company of the upright, in the congregation.  T

The Samaritan prostrate is the congregation upright.  “Arise your faith has made you whole.”

 I am going to jump into autumn and Thanksgiving. In 1863, President Lincoln issued the proclamation for a national day of thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.  In the midst of the worst war in American history, the President noticed that the nation had much to give thanks:  bounteous harvest, extension of the borders, commerce and industry creating jobs, population growing.  After listing those blessings, he then wrote:  No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”  Lincoln was right on target.  Everything is given. All is grace. The Lord causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Yes, bad things will happen while we wait for day of thanks for His return.   Satan will use any downturn as opportunity to beat us down accusing us and the faith,  but the Lord will use it teach us His grace.  Paul to Timothy:  “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” We have not devised this nor worked it out.” The Samaritan got that.  Like another Samaritan in the Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan knew what was needed to be a neighbor and serve him or her.  Or the Samaritan woman at the well who learned after hearing the Lord’s Word to confess Him. This Samaritan also got it. Too many people do not.  We have to live with ingratitude.  So did Jesus but He did not stop healing the sick and on the Cross forgiving all. The sacrifice of thanksgiving fills the Lord with awe, not sacrifices, not our works, and not our talents because the Lord knows what He has given us, but faith receiving in joy all His work that fills Him with joy by just saying thanks. 

 The Samaritan was razor-sharp in his focus of faith in praise and thanksgiving:  the feet of Jesus.  The Apostle Paul wrote to his brother in the holy ministry that a soldier is not get involved in civilian pursuits because his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. The Lord has enlisted you into His forces. Our focus of faith in praise and thanksgiving is likewise razor sharp:  the feet of Jesus in thanksgiving, our feet walking in prayer in the way of Jesus Christ, serving each other at our neighbor’s feet.

 This Thursday is the commemoration of Ignatius of Antioch, first century bishop and martyr. He wrote epistles to the 5 churches for which he pastored while he was taken captive in a long voyage across the Roman Empire to be executed.  His exhortation to his fellow Christians in his letter is mine today to live the thankful faith of the Samaritan and where and when, and most importantly by Whom faith is fed:

 Do not try to make anything appear praiseworthy by yourselves, but let there be in common one prayer, one petition, one mind, one hope in love, in blameless joy—which is Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is better [cf. John 10:16; Eph. 4:3-6]. 2. All of you must run together as to one temple of God, as to one sanctuary, to one Jesus Christ, who proceeded from the one Father and is with the one (Father) and departed to the one (Father) [cf. John 8:42;14:12,28; 16:10,17].

 The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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