O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Luke 17:11-19
Preached on October 13, 2019
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and from His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Fellow baptized saints, a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving to you and your family. We truly have a nearly endless number of blessings for which to thank God. We say it each week – that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, O LORD, for the countless blessings You so freely bestow on us and all creation. But we really can’t keep track, can we? No, it is staggering. You could pick merely one of your senses – just one – say your sight – and you would have to admit that even in that single sense – God freely gives you way more than you could pay attention to. Indescribable amounts of information enter your eye in a single moment. Add onto that your hearing, your sense of touch and taste, and all your other God-given senses – and you can be humbled at the sheer volume of what you are given. You could spend this entire day thanking God for what you receive in just one moment.
But we’re just getting started. Because what do you get to do with all of that created, beautiful variety that He gives you in every moment. You get to pick. Filter it. You get to set your attention on what is meaningful to you. You are made in God’s image, so you are given to participate in and shape His creation. God has made you an active participant in what matters. What is valuable. What is meaningful. Not only does God give you a near infinite amount of blessings, He also lets you help Him structure them into a hierarchy of meaning here in His creation. How do we thank Him for that?
Here’s the incredible part. Most of the time we don’t even acknowledge that this is happening. We don’t even realize we are in it. That we are in His creation participating in this way. We don’t question it, reflect on it, acknowledge Him for it – let alone fall in humility before Him in deep gratitude and awe. And here we’ve not even started acknowledging things like family, food, friends, home, work, peace, our country and things like these.
Thanksgiving is a day of incredible humility because despite our lack of acknowledgement and appreciation – despite the fact that we are totally unable to understand all that He gives us - He just keeps giving to us, because that’s who He is.
Now, before you think this is the height and depth of Thanksgiving – realize that our prayer is not done. We should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, O LORD, for the countless blessings You so freely bestow on us and all creation. But that is not the end of the prayer. Above all. Above all of that we give thanks for Your boundless love – not for the blessings of creation we’ve mentioned – No – we give thanks for Your boundless love shown to us when You sent Your Only-begotten Son into our flesh and laid on Him our sin, giving Him into death that we might not die eternally. Jesus is the best gift of all. Infinitely better. Not even a comparison. The Word of God that you hear preached, this Good News of Jesus, is a boundless gift – worthy of eternal praise and thanksgiving. This gift is so high that the angels can’t stop singing about it. It is higher than heaven and earth. It crosses every boundary. And yet this gift, this Jesus, He’s for you.
We meet up with Him on His way to Jerusalem - doing just that – crossing boundaries. His boundless love is on display, even in the way He has chosen to travel. No, He doesn’t take the typical path. He chooses to journey in that awkward space in between Samaria and Galilee. It’s like taking the dark alley between two buildings. Or the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. He’s walking in no man’s land. He chooses the path of misfits. The path that puts Him face to face with the fringe – the people that don’t belong – those who don’t have a place on the inside of any group. The spiritually unclean. The contagious. The outcast. Jesus is redrawing the boundaries with His own holiness. He is gathering all things into Himself. He is the Good Shepherd collecting His sheep. His kingdom is breaking-in – and it is no respecter of boundaries. Because this is the kingdom of boundless love.
Ten lepers meet Him. Like a community of contagious disease and uncleanness. They’ve gathered together on the fringe because none of them may stay with their families. They stand at a distance and cry out to Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” They are not asking for cleansing. They are asking for mercy. Salvation. This is their prayer. And they’re counting on Him. The moment Jesus hears His Name He sees them. They call on the Name of the Lord, He turns His attention onto them, and He speaks His Word of mercy. Like a gunner hitting His target. Have mercy. Mercy. Have mercy. Mercy. He’s just pouring it out.
“Go and show yourselves to the priest.” They don’t hesitate. They don’t waffle. They trust Him. They take Him at His Word - and as they go – they are cleansed. No more leprosy. No more contagious skin disease. No more oozing sores on face and back and hands. The priest at the Temple will restore them spiritually. He will reunite them with God’s people in worship and community by pronouncing them spiritually clean as God instructed by Moses. Return to the Temple Jesus is saying to them. Belong – participate – serve – love – act anew.
What an incredible reminder to all of us of the opportunity to serve here in our congregation. What a reminder of the enormous privilege it is to belong here in God’s house by His grace alone, ready to serve in all the ways that He gives us to serve one another here: elders, ushers, greeters, counters, acolytes, communion assistants, council members, altar guild members, school board members, choir members – and every person, group and committee that helps hold forth this message of mercy.
“Go, show yourselves to the priest.” There is another reason He wants them to go to Jerusalem to His very Temple. For they are proof that the Messiah is here. This healed community of lepers is undeniable, shocking evidence that the long-awaited Messiah’s kingdom is breaking-in – releasing God’s people from their bondage. Jesus is King. And He is sending those He has freed on ahead into Jerusalem as advance notice. Here I come. I am inbound – army in tow. And I don’t just come to cleanse ten lepers, but the sin of all humanity by My cross. Messiah is here. It’s mercy time.
One of the lepers looks at Himself made whole. He sees the healing and turns back. Racing to fall on His face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. This is the center of the story. An unclean leper, now healed, worshipping at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He has done. It’s different for him. This is not a one-time thing for him. This is not about the result. Not some sort of vending machine faith where you put the quarter in and get what you want. No. This is about the mercy. It’s about the Lord. He is the true gift, and this healed man knows it. He has the Merciful One. He has the Giver. It matters not what specific gifts he is given from time to time. He has come face-to-face with boundless love. He has been acted upon by the One who knows no boundaries, who crosses all borders, and who does it all for him.
On this Thanksgiving morning, you get to join this healed man. For although our sin belongs on the outside, Christ has heard you call on His Name. He has turned His attention to you. He has spoken His cleansing Word of mercy over you – forgiving you of all your sin – and He has restored you to His family and Church.
But He’s not done. He’s going to bring you with Him across another boundary. He’s going to meet you on the border of heaven and earth in His holy Supper. He’s going to redraw the boundaries with His holy body and blood, and change you with it. Cleanse. Heal. Restore. Nourish. His kingdom is breaking-in. You may fall at His feet in thanksgiving. For this is His Eucharist. His Thanksgiving Feast. A feast not of created blessings. No. In this feast you eat the uncreated blessing. The Merciful One Himself. Even Jesus.
It is difficult to say what that healed man expected as he lay on his face before Jesus. But we know what Jesus gives him is priceless. Arise, Jesus says, and join Me. Come with Me to Jerusalem. Let Me show you the final cleansing. The cosmic cleansing. All of creation’s cleansing, when I work atonement through My flesh on the throne of the cross. Rise up. Your faith has made you well. Now, I’ve got more to show you.
This is the way it is with our Master. There’s always more. We fall at His feet in thanksgiving and He invites us up higher. His love is boundless, and so He says to you, Rise up, and journey with Me further down this repentance road, because I’ve got more to show you. I have a heavenly Jerusalem awaiting you. No, we don’t need to rush. For we will always be together on the way. Fellow baptized saints, a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving to you and your family. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr