We’re going to have a Thanksgiving service this year and it’s always a challenge. Not the service itself, but what should be the main message. Of course we ought to say we’re thankful for a number of things but sometimes it’s more difficult than that.
You can’t just command people to be thankful. So how and what should we preach Thanksgiving? One idea is to look at Luke’s story (Chapter 17) of the 10 lepers. You’ll remember the story. Jesus heals 10 lepers. They all walk away. Then one turns back, approaches Jesus and says “thank you.” He’s a hated Samaritan, no less.
What’s also interesting is that all 10 were healed. All 10, even the nine who didn’t return to say “thanks.” So what made the Samaritan different? He noticed. That’s pretty much it. He was grateful. The other nine were not. I think once he realized he’d been healed, he couldn’t help but turn back and share his joy and thanksgiving with Jesus.
Thanksgiving should be like that. When we’re genuinely thankful, we express a spontaneous thank you. We recognize we’ve been blessed and we can’t help but share our joy through thanksgiving.
So the Samaritan turns back to say “thanks.” He knows he’s been given a gift and can’t help turning around to say something. In doing so, he’s given a second gift. Not only is the man healed, but he’s also blessed. He’s blessed in recognizing he’s been healed but also he’s been healed by Jesus, the Messiah, the Great Physician himself. Jesus says “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)
Imagine the difference that must have made in his life. He, a Samaritan, being commended by a Jewish rabbi for having so much faith that it was sufficient to heal a terrible disease like leprosy.
That’s the way thanksgiving always works — in giving thanks for a gift given, we are blessed again.
So I think the first lesson we can learn from this healing encounter is that we must first notice. For those with eyes to see, God’s blessings are all around us. And as we give thanks for them, we notice even more and are blessed yet again. We live in an age of “me-first.” A simple word of gratitude opens us up to world of abundance, mercy and grace. It may seem a small thing — noticing and thanking — but it’s the first step to setting in motion a cycle of gratitude and grace.
Have you noticed when you thank a sales person or waitperson that they say in response: “no problem.” Of course it’s not a problem. The proper response should be “thank you.” Just as the Samaritan leper knew and said.
Yes, I Want Access! No Thanks
A second lesson for us all is to do what the Samaritan leper did before he said thanks. He paid attention. And he was grateful. And we can do the same. Try noticing the things you’re grateful for. Try noticing the many blessings God provides for you. Then tell the people around you how much you appreciate and love them. Don’t wait until you’re sitting in a church or funeral home memorial service when it’s too late. Tell them now why you’re thankful for them.
Come join us at Trinity. We give thanks to God every Sunday morning at 10, every Wednesday at noon, and our teens give thanks every Sunday afternoon at 5.