Summary: As we approach Thanksgiving, some of us may be struggling with ingratitude. This sermon lists three hindrances to gratitude.
The first Pilgrims arrived on the shores of what is now the United States of America in 1620.
The Pilgrims would not fully understand in their lifetime the reason for the suffering that they endured. The first Thanksgiving Day occurred as a unique holy day in the fall of 1621. The Pilgrims had fresh memories of the difficult, terrible winter they had just been through a few months before. Scores and scores of babies, children, young people and adults had starved to death. Many of the Pilgrims had come to a point where they were even ready to go back to England. In fact, they had climbed into a ship in the harbor heading back to England, ready to give up. It was then that they saw another ship coming the other way. On that ship was a Frenchman named Delaware, who came with some medical supplies and food. The Pilgrims then had enough hope to disembark, go back and to try to live in the midst of those adverse sufferings.
And so they came to that first Thanksgiving with the spirit of giving and of sharing.
Three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth, Governor Bradford of Massachusetts made this first Thanksgiving Proclamation:
"Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience;
"Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all you Pilgrims, with your wives and your little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on the hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three and the third year since we Pilgrims landed on Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to your pastor and render thanksgiving to our Almighty God for all his blessings."
383 years ago Governor Bradford urged Christians to set aside time on Thanksgiving Day to hear the Word of God and to thank him for all his blessings. And that is what we are doing today in anticipation of Thanksgiving Day.
Today, as we think about Thanksgiving, I want to address the subject of ingratitude. Ingratitude is one of the ugliest attitudes anyone can possess. Luke drives home this point in a fascinating passage in Luke 17:11-19:
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)
In Jesus’ day lepers were quarantined in colonies, some distance from cities and towns because their dreaded disease was so contagious. That’s why the group of ten stood some distance away as Jesus and the others entered the village.
Jesus’ seemingly strange command for the ten to show themselves to the priest was part of the normal process, as prescribed in the Law of Moses.
When a person was confident that he had recovered from the disease of leprosy, he was to submit to a purification ceremony from the priest to ensure—as much as was possible in ancient times—that he was indeed healed and could rejoin normal society.
In this remarkable account, the healing occurred miraculously and unmistakably as the ten men were on their way to see the priest after Jesus had commanded them to do so.
It is almost inconceivable that anyone could be cured from a terrible and frightening disease such as leprosy, which isolated a man or woman from family and friends and cut him or her off from normal events in society and the synagogue, and not be abundantly and permanently grateful. But that is exactly what happened with nine out of the ten lepers Jesus healed.
Furthermore, the thankful one was a Samaritan, which meant he was from the half-breed ethnic group that was the product of Jewish intermarriage with the Canaanites and Assyrians. Samaritans were despised by devout Jews, and as a result a mutual hatred had developed between the two peoples. So it was indeed remarkable that a Samaritan should be the only one thanking Jesus, a Jew.