I Want to Be More Thankful

Pastor Jake Schram

Worship Theme: I Want to Be More Thankful

First Lesson: Deuteronomy 8:10-18 (NIV)
Second Lesson : Philippians 4:10-20 (NIV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)
Music:

  • For Beauty of the Earth
  • Senior Choir: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness
  • CW 609: We Praise You, O God, Our Redeemer
  • CW 491: Come, You Thankful People, Come
  • 5th & 6th Grade: Come, Let Us Sing
  • We Thank You for Your Blessings

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Message: I Want...to Be More Thankful

Pastor Jake Schram

Who’s ready for Christmas!? Christmas music is already blaring on some radio stations. Department stores have had their Christmas merchandise up for about a month already. People have decorated their houses with festive lights in preparation for the season. Even the sky has provided us with the occasional dusting of snow as if a precursor for what is to come. But aren’t we forgetting something? I feel like we are missing something. Oh yeah, Thanksgiving. In a society where wanting and needing new stuff is the fad, sometimes we forget how much we already have. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for, especially for our Savior who takes away the sins of the world. Lord, today, we want to be more thankful. Help us to be more thankful.

We are not the only ones who have struggled with being thankful. In a way, the final days of Jesus’ ministry on earth were sad days because people were not thankful for him. When Jesus first started preaching, crowds followed him everywhere hoping he would give them whatever they wanted. He was a genie in a lamp to them supposing him to give them whatever they wanted. But when they found out that some of Jesus’ teachings were hard or not what they envisioned, some of the crowds drifted away. Some of Jesus’ teachings were too demanding for their tastes. However, not everyone threw Jesus out of their lives. There were some who faithfully followed and understood Jesus’ message. And they were extremely thankful for Jesus. Today, we hear about one such account.

In our text, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem to carry out the eternal plan to save the world. As he is going into a village along the journey, 10 men with leprosy stand at a distance and call out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Having leprosy was one of the worst things that could happen to an Israelite. When an Israelite got leprosy, their whole life was flipped upside down. Having the disease itself was bad enough, but then all these other things had to take place as well. First, they had to go into quarantine, something most of us couldn’t relate to until the last couple years. Quarantine statistics show that metal health problems go way up. Going into quarantine can be extremely difficult for some. It was the same with these Israelites. They had to live outside of the camp, away from their family and friends. Second, an Israelite with leprosy had to wear torn clothes. So much for being comfy in pajama bottoms! This was to distinguish someone from normal healthy people so others knew to stay away from that person. Third, someone with leprosy had to let their hair be unkempt. Fourth, when anyone came near, you were required to cover the lower part of your face (just like a mask) and shout, “Unclean! Unclean! I’m unclean. Stay away!” What a way to spend your days! It can’t have been good for someone’s self-image. Lepers were sick, they were uncomfortable, they were lonely. And they had to stay this way. As long as someone had leprosy they remained unclean. Basically they were outcasts to society and as good as dead, cut off from everyone. No hope whatsoever.

And then here comes Jesus. And these lepers know who he is. His fame has even spread to the outcasts of society. And they show faith enough that he might heal them. Jesus doesn’t perform any elaborate ceremony. He doesn’t say magic words. He simply replies, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And then continues on his way. The lepers are probably just standing there staring at each other. “Was that it?” This is interesting because a person was supposed to show themselves to the priests if they were cured. The priests would be the judge if they were cured or not. But there is a problem. Jesus didn’t heal them at that moment! As he walks away from them they are still lepers. They are not cured…yet. Showing faith that Jesus could heal however or whenever he pleased, they followed his instructions. And along the way it happens: they are cleansed. Just like that the outcasts who were left for dead with no hope are healed in an instant. Jesus made the unclean clean.

The spectacular thing about this is that this is not usually how the whole clean and unclean thing works. If you were to touch someone who was unclean in Israelite times, you were then considered unclean. Unclean people made more people unclean and that’s why they were separated from the clean. In our account, Jesus does not become unclean. Rather, he is so holy and so unique that instead he makes all of the unclean clean. The priests will be witnesses of the cleanliness that has miraculously happened.

Imagine you fell into a mud puddle on your way to church today. And you fell all in. Mud is covering your body completely from head to toe. Your friend jumps in to help you up. She doesn’t remain clean helping you, does she? No, by helping you she gets covered in mud as well. Anyone that touches you would become dirty. Now imagine if someone grabbed your hand to help you up and suddenly the mud on you is completely gone. The mud you fell into is suddenly gone. There is no trace of the mud smell or stain left on you or your clothes. This is what it is like with the lepers. Jesus has miraculously made the unclean clean.

This is very good news to us. Because we are dirty with sin. We’re covered in it. We reek of it. It’s in our clothes, on our tongues, even in our hearts. That is why we are so often never satisfied with what we have. So many of us skip right over Thanksgiving because we have images of all the gifts we want to get for Christmas. “I want a TV. I want people to lavish me with gifts. I want that really expensive clothing, not because I plan to wear it, but I just want to show it off to make others jealous. I want…I want…I want.” Our sin is evident by the way we think and gravitate toward all our desires instead of what’s needed. Despite what we’ve asked for, God has done the impossible and given us what we needed. Last Sunday we talked about this. Jesus is the kind of king you need. He has taken your unbeatable sinful nature inside of all of you and beaten it. He has taken the uncleanliness out of your past actions, even the most foul, and made us clean.

After cleansing the lepers, Jesus would continue to Jerusalem and there he would give his innocent life on a cross so that all the unclean people of the world would be made clean in him. How wonderful that is! We are completely cleansed of every impure thought or deed. We are clean. In other words, we have everything we need to be thankful.

Back in our text, every single one of the ten lepers was healed. Our text continues by telling us only one of them returned. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” He understood what a generous gift he had been given. He had been made clean by the Savior.

God knows how to make a great story. The next sentence of our text gives us shocking information. The leper who came back was a Samaritan. A Samaritan was an outcast among the Jews! They were considered half-bloods by many of the Jews and not worthy of being part of God’s people. Many Jews did not associate with Samaritans unless something drastic was happening. Yet here was the Samaritan giving thanks. The nine Jews, while believing Jesus enough to go and be healed, did NOT return to thank and worship Jesus.

Let me give you a present-day picture of what this might look like. There are 10 people with stage 4 cancer. The prognosis doesn’t look good for any of them. 9 of these people have a church family and they attend once a week. The last one does not because no church wants him, but he still believes. All ten of them pray to God to take their cancer away. The very next day all ten are miraculously healed with not a single cancer cell left in their bodies. Who would you expect to give thanks? Well, all of them right? But especially those with church families because they look holier to our eyes. But now imagine, the 9 who have church families never give thanks. They just ignore what happened and go enjoy their newfound health. But the one that didn’t have a church family falls on his knees and praises the Lord for this wonderful gift. That’s the picture of what is going on in our text.

Jesus draws attention to this fact. He said, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner? The foreigner had returned to give thanks and praise to the Savior who made him clean. Now usually, this would be the part of the sermon where I remind us of all the ways we’ve forgotten to give thanks to God, despite the surplus of blessings in our lives. And while I am sure you can think of some, that is not what I want to focus on. There are so many things we want and we want and we want, but today I want…to be more thankful and focus on some of the reasons we can be so thankful.

God has made all of us clean. We had the hopeless disease of sin and he completely wiped our record clean. He looks at us and sees perfection. He creates a new person within us. He gives us his own Word to help us grow in the faith and cling to these promises. I know some families do this thing where they go around the table before the Thanksgiving meal and everyone says one thing they are thankful for. I know what I am going to say this year. I’m thankful for you. Let me tell you why. Jesus’s death paid for the sins of the whole world. Everyone. If they want his forgiveness, it is there for them, sitting gift wrapped and ready to be picked up through faith. But even though everyone has the gift of forgiveness of sins set before them, not everyone is thankful for the gift. Just like the 9 Jewish lepers in our account, many don’t return to give thanks. But I am thankful that you do. Because you are here now or watching this at home. God has given us gifts, including making us clean, and you have returned to give thanks and praise and worship our wonderful Savior right now. It’s incredible. Your love and support help our church exist and bring God’s Word to people. That’s a whole lot to be thankful for.

Author Charles Dickens once said we have it mixed up here in America. Instead of having a Thanksgiving Day each year, we should have 364. “Use that one day just for complaining and griping,” he said. “Use the other 364 days to thank God each day for the many blessings he has showered upon you.” He’s got a point. The whole year round, God gives us reasons to give thanks. During the Advent season we can be thankful for his gift of hope in Jesus. During Christmas we can thank God for his gift of joy for the birth of a Savior. During Epiphany, we can thank God for making himself known to us. During Lent, we can thank God for uniting us through his death to himself and his church. During Easter we can thank God for our new birth through his death. He has risen indeed. Boomshakalaka. During Pentecost we thank God for the gifts he gives through the spirit, for the fruits of faith. During End Times we are thankful for the white robes of righteousness that Jesus covers us with so we are holy in God’s sight. We could keep going all day.

We have so very much to be thankful for. God has taken our uncleanliness away and made us clean through Jesus our Savior. He takes away our selfish, greedy thoughts and replaces them with contentment and joy. We no longer want and want and want…or at least not as much in view of what we have: as Savior who loves and saves us. We don’t need anything else. God, help us to see this and continue to praise you. We want to be more thankful. Amen.