Humble Thankfulness

Humble Thankfulness

Grace, mercy, and peace be
unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Amen. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the text is the gospel reading.
You may be seated.

We just finished singing about
Ruth, the great example in that Old Testament reading. There are some
of you in the congregation for whom you have been named Ruth. Ruth is
an interesting person in the Old Testament reading and a great example
for this morning, and the tie-in with the gospel lesson is this: Ruth
was a Moabitess who was not of the people of Israel by birth, but by
faith she was brought into the people of Israel, the Church, the true
Church, all who believe in Christ.

There is another interesting
aspect about the Old Testament reading that emphasizes this point again.
It’s hidden. It’s not clear in that text. It is found elsewhere about
an important individual in that text. For Ruth was redeemed by a man
named Boaz. He redeemed Ruth, and Ruth, of course, was brought into
the kingdom of heaven, not by lineage but by faith, which is the most
important and the only way to be brought into the kingdom of heaven.

But Boaz’s own mother was Rahab
the harlot. She was the one that held Joshua’s men, hid them. She, too,
was brought into the kingdom of heaven by faith. She was a part of the
true Israel and was not looking at her lineage and her background. That
is the connection to this morning’s text. For in this morning’s text,
the one who did return was a Samaritan, one who had already been ostracized
by the religious establishment, and yet exemplified how one is brought
into the kingdom of heaven, not by lineage or by birth, but by faith.
And our Lord affirmed that: “Your faith has saved you.”

Now, that’s a very important
part…critical to our understanding of the text. In your hymnals, open
up to page 327. When you get there, you will notice we’re in the middle
of Luther’s Small Catechism, and on page 327, it’s the left-hand column,
halfway down. The question is…Who receives this sacrament worthily?

And the answer is…Fasting
and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training, but that
person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words.

Which words? Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy
and unprepared.
Why? For the words for you require all hearts
to believe.
You can close your hymnals now.

This text is about 10 people
who received the Word of God. Nine of those who received the Word of
God received it with joy. But when trials and tribulations or temptations
came, those nine fell away from the faith because they never really
did acknowledge Christ as the One who not only healed them physically,
but more importantly, healed them spiritually.

Like on the very front of this
pulpit, carved into the wood, is the parable of the seed and the sower.
Beneath the sower put into a quadrant are the four types of soil that
the seed landed on. And the one that received it with joy and sprouted
up is like the nine in our text. But when the sun’s heat and trials
and tribulations came, it withered and died.

This text is also about the
one. The one who the seed fell among good soil, sprouted, grew, produced
a crop. And you and I get to see in the words of the text the crop that
the Lord produced in this man’s heart. We don’t get the answer why the
nine received it with joy for a while and then it died and the one received
it and remained in the faith. We do not know why. That is not the answer
to the parable of the seed and the sower, nor is it the answer in the
text as to why the nine left and never returned and why the one left
and did return.

That’s a lot like why you and
I don’t know why many people who grew up in the same family as we acknowledge
Christ and continue to need Him for their soul’s sustenance. And others
within our same family who have heard the same message walk on. No different
than why you and I know and have great love for people not only in our
immediate family but outside our immediate family who call upon the
Lord as we call upon the Lord. For the words for you require
their hearts to believe as our hearts to believe and why some that we
know and love very well have no need for the One who said that He bled
and died for you. That is the mystery of this parable and ultimately
the mystery of this text.

For some receive this gift
in faith just as those who receive and believe that receive it as a
blessing. And there are those who receive it, like in that parable,
and it finally ends up being a curse for them because they turn away
from it. No different than those who come forward and receive it not
believing, receive that to their detriment.

This text is about a contrast,
a marked contrast between the nine who represent the religious establishment,
who above all people living at that time should have known Him to be
the Messiah, and yet they become those who have the lineage but do not
believe. And it’s also about the contrast between the one, the minority,
who is a part of the race and lineage of those who were spurned by the
religious establishment, who were on the outside looking in and yet
are received, like Rahab the harlot, into the lineage of Christ, like
Ruth the Moabitess, into the lineage of Christ because they believe
the promise.

Not because of whom their mother
or father was. Not because of whom their family members were. Not because
of the pastor who trained them or the church in which they were baptized
or confirmed or because of the college they attended or any other reason.
But because of the faith that brought them in. These people, who the
world judges as being outsiders, are brought into the kingdom and become
the very example of those who believe the words for you. They
are not victims, and it would serve no purpose for them to look upon
themselves as victims, no more than it would serve you to look upon
yourself as a victim unless, of course, you wish to look upon you and
myself as being a victim of our own self, but of no one else.

We are the outcasts, like Rahab
the harlot, like Ruth the Moabitess, and like the Samaritan who was
brought into the kingdom of heaven. And as outcasts, what separates
them from the religious establishment is they realize they are outcasts
and they have no reason to be brought into the kingdom of heaven except
by the grace and mercy of the Lord who gives them the nod to come into
His kingdom.

Christ is the groom. We as
the Church are His bride. We have been brought inside like Ruth and
Rahab. And like Ruth and Rahab who knew their background and never forgot
it, received their Lord with humble thankfulness. So you and I know
we are the outsiders because…well, quite frankly, because we have
been unfaithful to our husband, the Lord Jesus, and we know we have
been unfaithful to our husband, the Lord Jesus, and our life we can
see very clearly is a life like Rahab, of a harlot.

In our unfaithfulness to our
Lord, we remember, and Satan brings it up to our mind’s memory more
often than we wish to have it brought. And yet we know that those words
for you
apply to us because there is no other reason that we should
be a part of our husband Christ Jesus as His unfaithful bride, like

We have grumbled against the
will of our husband who has lovingly commanded and watched over us.
We have grumbled against Him because we have not trusted Him as we ought.
We have not appreciated the gifts that He has given us because they
have not come when we want them or how we have desired them to be given.
And we realize such unappreciativeness and such grumbling as His bride.

Instead of receiving this great
thankfulness that God has given us with humility, we know we have received
it with pride. And of what do we have to be proud? From what stock did
we come? From what mold did we come? From what bolt of cloth have we
been cut? No. We know we are outsiders and outcasts, and we are ashamed
of ourselves as His bride as that Samaritan was and as the nine who
walked away were.

So then, who is worthy and
well prepared to receive the One who has said to you, “Thou art
clean, thou art holy, thou art my beloved bride”? The One who has
faith in these words, “…given and shed for you for the forgiveness
of your sins.” For those who doubt or do not believe those words
are unworthy and unprepared. For the words for you require your
and my hearts to believe as Rahab believed, as Ruth believed, as the
Samaritan who had been healed of leprosy believed. But not for anything
else or any other reason.

You see, in this text, Christ
introduces to us a brand new holiness, a holiness that is not founded
upon religious ideals. A holiness and righteousness that is not grounded
in who our parents were and in what church we were baptized or confirmed,
who taught us, where we were married or any other reason to which we
can point in this life. We are outcasts, and Christ introduces to us
in our leprosy a brand new kind of holiness. For in the pure flesh of
Christ does He subsume and receive your and my uncleanness and return
to us a holiness bestowed upon us, His cleansed bride. He receives our
harlotry and our infidelity and gives us back virginity and purity by
clothing us with that white robe of righteousness like a bride who comes
before her husband.

Here He brings to us a brand
new definition of holiness, He Himself. For there is no other reason
that we, like a Samaritan, can say, “Thank you, Lord,” in
humility except we who have been received by faith, who believe that
the One who said for you means you, and you and you and me. That
kind of holiness will thwart your conscious’ accusations and the Evil
One’s accusations.

That kind of holiness will
be what you close your eyes in, in peace, and not in fear. It is that
kind of holiness that Christ has given to you, His bride, which will
always bring Him joy because it is His holiness and not your own. Your
faith has made you well. Go in peace in the name of the One who has
made you well, who has cleansed you and who still calls you His beloved
bride, Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God which passes
all understanding keep your hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to
life everlasting, Amen.