Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
Two friends bumped into each other at the mall one day. One of them looked really down in the dumps, tears welling up right behind his eyes. His friend said to him “Hello old chum! It’s great to see you but you down, is everything OK?” The sad friend replied “Oh my gosh, it’s great to see you too. But let me tell you what’s been going on with me. Three weeks ago my favourite uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.” “That’s a lot of money!” replied the friend. “But two weeks ago, a cousin I never knew also passed away and left me $85,000!” “Sound’s like the Lord is smiling on you!” the friend replied. “You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away and I inherited a quarter million dollars!” Now the friend was really confused. “This is amazing news! Why do you look so glum?!” The sad friend looked him straight in the eyes and said “This week . . . nothing!”
How’s that for a typical “attitude of gratitude?” Doesn’t sound like that guy has a life of “thanks-living” to me! So often in life we are absolutely blind to God’s blessings to us. This is part and parcel of our sinful nature to be sure. But really it’s true. We are quite horrible at being thankful for all that God has given us. There was a little rhyme that said “Two men looked out from behind the prison bars, one saw mud, the other saw stars.” It’s a little proverb aimed directly at the heart as to remind us to be thankful regardless of our circumstances. And when we consider how amazingly great we have life in Canada in comparison to the majority of people around the world, the problems that we do dwell on really become first-world problems.
Now, this isn’t to minimize our difficulties or hard times that we may experience. Far from it - especially in 2020! Who would have ever thought that we would be struck by a world wide pandemic?! Remember when this all started back in March? It was “two-weeks to flatten the curve!” Weeks dragged on into months. And there have been thousands of fines given out to people breaking Covid19 protocols! There have been countless deaths from this pandemic that weren’t directly caused by the virus. Suicide rates skyrocketing. Depression. Isolation. People having to die alone in hospital rooms because family can’t be with them. 2020 definitely has had it’s share of trials!
But the remedy for all that vexes us as God’s people is none other than Thanksgiving! This sounds totally weird because being thankful in the midst of hard times is NOT what we want to do. But it will draw our attention upward. It gives us a heavenly focus. James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God is the source of all the blessings and benefits we have in this life. Thanksgiving becomes our response to Him for who He is and for the gifts of grace He gives us. Gratitude to God as our Savior, Redeemer and Lord ought to take nothing for granted. We should see everything as gifts from our Heavenly Father.
We take for example our Gospel reading today. We in the biz refer to it as “Jesus and the Thanksgiving Turkeys!” The folks in this story are turkeys because they don’t give thanks to God for the amazing miracle that they receive. Well, at least 90% of them are turkeys. 10% - one - came back to give thanks to God for healing his leprosy. And, as the cherry on top of the story, it’s a Samaritan of all people. If we remember, the Jews hated the Samaritans and considered them all inbred, half-breed hillbillies - the way Moose Jaw people tend to think about people from Regina, ok, ok Winnipeg! You get the idea. This Samaritan in the story, just like the good Samaritan, puts his Jewish companions to shame with his faith in God. This foreigner, lowly and despised, shows that not only is his body healed of disease, but likewise his soul. He has received the fullness of God’s healing and he wants to return and give thanks!
But the 90%, what about them? Jesus our Lord fills all Judea with His miracles and yet the Jews remain unsaved. It’s almost like Jesus is painting a picture of salvation. Many will hear the good news, that God is awesome, that He loves people in spite of their sins and shortcomings, that He died on the cross and rose again for their forgiveness, that He defeated death and brought forth eternal life to all who believe! But the majority of people will not respond with thanksgiving. Nope. The bulk will remain thankless and ungrateful and, unfaithful. This of course is a heinous tragedy! For St. Paul writes that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4). But will the people respond with thankfulness and praise like the Samaritan? Or will we be like the bulk of the thankless thanksgiving turkeys?! “Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” (LK 17:17).
This story certainly drills down this point for us. Check your heart. How’s the thanksgiving going? I’m not talking about your pumpkin pie and stuffing recipe. I’m talking about our spiritual thanksgiving to God who has richly blessed us with so many blessings they are impossible to count! To be a grateful person is to recognize that God is the source of everything we have, from every breath we draw to every moment we see. If we take all these things for granted or whine and complain about them, then we miss God’s amazing grace. All of life goes down hill and we get stuck in the muddy mire of the malcontent.
This is why Thanksgiving in the Christian life is more than a once a year holiday. It’s more than turkey and pie, more than sweet potatoes and cranberries, more than a CFL day-long set of Thanksgiving games. More than Martin Frobisher’s 1578 founding of the first thanksgiving in Canada, more than Samuel de Champlain’s 1604 Order of Good Cheer thanksgiving with the natives. Thanksgiving properly becomes the foundational aspect of our entire lives as Christians. We are eternally thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His glorious resurrection from the dead. We are eternally grateful for God’s amazing grace and love shown to we un-thankful turkeys!
There is a story from Budapest about a man who goes to the Pastor and complains “Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?” The Pastor answers, “Take your goat into the room with you.” The man was taken aback. But the Pastor insists. “Do as I say and come back in a week.” A week later the man returns to the Pastor, more distraught than ever before. “We cannot stand this, Pastor!” he says. “The goat is filthy, disgusting and yucky!” The Pastor tells the man to “go home and let the goat out. Come back in a week.” A week later a radiant man returns to the Pastor shouting “Life is beautiful! We enjoy every minute of it now that there’s no goat and only nine of us in the room!”
When you look at the Scriptures, they are chock full of thanksgiving. And this is regardless of the circumstances of life around us. What comes to mind automatically for me is Psalm 100:4-5 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the LORD is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” Thankfulness is possible because we know that above anything else in the world, we have become God’s children by faith and our baptism. This faith changes us from being thankless to being thankful.
And so, as God’s people we gather around His table to celebrate the feast of thanksgiving: Holy Communion. It’s fancy Greek name, the Eucharist, literally means “thanksgiving.” We remember our Lord in this meal because in His grace He has first remembered us. We embrace the spirit of thanksgiving because the Lord our God and Father who is the source of our every blessing cannot fail. No matter what the future holds, we know who holds the future. And for that we give our Lord thanksgiving now and forevermore. Amen and Happy Thanksgiving!