November 27, 2013: Thanksgiving Eve

Let us pray: Dear Savior, tonight we join to thank You for everything we have and everything we are and everything we will ever be in the realm of blessings and holiness. Cause such thankfulness to permeate our body and spirit, give voice to honoring You, and be the source of our ongoing celebration of life. Amen

TEXT: Luke 17: 11-19

Dearly Beloved Thankful and Blest Believers in Christ:

What is the most beloved American holiday?—Not Christian holiday, but American holiday—born, raised, and celebrated strictly in the good old USA? I suppose we have 4 to choose from: Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen and poll numbers on this, but my guess is that Thanksgiving would win out, hands down. People love to eat. People love to get together with family and friends. People love the day off—unless you’re cooking and having a houseful—then your enthusiasm wanes a bit by day’s end.

Thanksgiving is just what it says: a day to give thanks for our blessings. But, who will we thank? The obvious answer is: God Almighty. And most Americans will utter some sort of prayer to “god” tomorrow before they consume the feast. But considering that the majority of our nation doesn’t go to church much, if at all, will such lip service truly be honest? Or will those prayers really be directed to: fate, happy circumstances, or even to oneself such as: “I’m really thankful I’ve been healthy, employed, and able to pay my bills this past year? Aren’t I a wonderful human being?” Of course, such self-thanks (thanks-taking) isn’t really thanksgiving at all. It’s merely a celebration of one’s ego.

I

Our text from St. Luke is the traditional lesson for this day on the church calendar. The reasons our forebears picked it are obvious. Ten men cleansed by Christ of the dread disease of leprosy, for which there was no cure at that time, was a miracle. It changed their lives from a living death sentence, to a living life sentence! All of those 10 were thankful for this. How could they not be? And yet, only one returns to thank Christ personally for this blessing of blessings. We’re told: “when he saw he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.”

Considering that Jesus was the Son of God, and this fellow now knew it, this act on his part was pure worship. He even adopts the posture of traditional worship of that time—he kneels at Jesus’ feet and thanks him out loud. Jesus’ response to this is informative. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'”

The very essence of true, Godly worship is thankfulness. This text proves it and Christ confirms it in His answer to this Samaritan. Worship is all about honoring God and giving Him homage. In John 4: 24, Jesus further defines such an act of homage: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth.” In other words, merely paying lip service to God, or adopting an outward posture of worship or prayer, or mouthing a few words of a hymn with an angelic smile on your face are all worthless unless your heart is focused and in sync with the object of genuine worship: Jesus Christ. This Samaritan’s heart was in sync because he was truly thankful over getting his life back. And as an added bonus to showing his thankfulness, he also received God’s forgiveness for his sins and the assurance that his faith in the Messiah was true.

II

I repeat: the very essence of true Christian worship is thankfulness. Let me approach this from a different direction. Can you truly worship God if you’re not thankful to Him? Can you truly worship God if you’re only thankful for some of your more obvious blessings and not all of them? Does your worship of God (thankfulness) get tossed aside when evil intrudes into your life and brings sickness, divorce, pain, suffering, or death? Do you still thank Him for loved ones, for a roof over your head, for the salvation of your soul and eternal life—even when tough times preoccupy your mind and body? I’ve known some very poor people, some very sick people, and some very stressed people who still were full of good cheer each day because in their core being, they were thankful. Yes, thankfulness is really the attitude of the heart toward whatever life throws at us. Thankfulness survives within because it knows that God is always good, always caring, and always forgiving—Jesus’ death on the cross for us proves it!

So, yes, Every Moment of Thanksgiving Is Really A Moment of Godly Worship. Just like the man in our lesson, thanks to God, praise of God, and worship of Him are all joined together. They join to bring honor to our Lord and inner peace to our souls. Now that you’re re-armed with that truth, embrace tomorrow, embrace Friday, embrace every day with a spring in your step and the newfound confidence that: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” So, Rise and go, your faith as made you well…..Amen