Summary: Thanksgiving Sermon -- using ESV text
Luke 17:11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.
12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance
13 and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us."
14 When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed.
15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;
16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
17 Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?
18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"
19 And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Ten men. Ten men with leprosy. The outcasts of society. Shunned by all. Their neighbors feared them, the church rejected them. Their movements were restricted. They could not come within 2 paces of anyone else. They had to warn all by proclaiming “unclean” in the hearing of all. They were considered to be the worst of sinners, because they had the most vile of diseases. Standing on the outskirts of the crowd. Leprosy has a tendency to affect the vocal chords, so they probably were calling out together, to achieve a reasonable volume. And they were truly on the fringes, both of this crowd, and of society.
Their cry is “master, have mercy.” Not a demand for acceptance, but a simple plea for help. They knew their fate: they were doomed to die from this dreadful disease. They knew the reasons for their exclusion from society: they were contagious. And Jesus recognized their call for help. Not with a display of power, but with a simple statement: “go, show yourselves to the priests.”
Their cry for mercy is the same one that we make in our liturgy. “Lord, have mercy.” Our Kyrie. And it means the same thing today as it did for these ten. We are not worthy, but, please, Lord, look upon us with favor and give us what we do not deserve. These ten were looking for healing. So are we. They wanted physical healing. So do many of us. Yet, the mercy we more urgently ask for is the forgiveness of our sins, that we may be deemed worthy in the sight of the Father.
These ten were not healed immediately – at leat not visibly. Their healing began with what not visible: Christ’s Word, and the faith that followed from those Words. In this faith, they began the journey to Jerusalem to be certified as clean, even though their healing was not yet visible. Along that journey, the healing came. We are not told how long: minutes, hours, days. But the healing came. The joy must have been overwhelming. Then, we can assume, an argument among them started. The majority wanted to continue, even hurry, to see the priests. At least one wanted to return and thank Jesus.
And, one did return. He turned around. He came back glorifying God. He had no questions about who Jesus was. He glorified God, present in the Son. He turned around to thank the one who had given him the thing he desired most. He was not swayed by the crowd mentality. He overcame that. He did what he knew was the right thing to do: he turned around to give praise to the One who had given him this gift.
We, too, need to “turn around.” As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we need to recognize where our gifts truly come from. We need to turn around, and look to the ultimate creator. We so often depend upon our own abilities that we forget that we are but stewards of these gifts. We need to remember that all that we have is but a gift from God. When we rely upon ourselves, we no longer recognize God as the true source of all. We, in essence, reject God.
The Samaritan Leper knew the source of his blessing. He did not reject God. And we are in the same position as that leper. We have asked for what we do not deserve, and we come to church to give thanks to God for the blessings that he showers upon us. And we know that all of the material gifts that we receive are a minor blessing compared to the ultimate gift that we here receive: the gift of eternal life. That is the ultimate, undeserved gift.