Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the
text for this evening comes from all three lessons you've heard read.
When I first got out of the seminary, an older pastor told
me, "Keep all the cards people send you that are positive, tuck them away
in a file folder, and when you're having a bad day, open them up and read them
because it will remind you that not all days are like that day." That is
the great gift of being a journaler, doing the same thing with it, to read back
and see that it's not always as dark as it seems. When it comes to God's gifts,
whether they be temporal and earthly or whether they be spiritual and eternal,
we ought often to be reminded.
In the Old Testament reading this evening, in the second
verse, "And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has
led you." Remember. Part of being thankful is remembering, because
Satan spins us with a dark cloud and glasses that are shading all that God has
done so that we fixate not upon His great gifts, but upon our lack of whatever
it is we may think we want or need.
For those 40 years they are to remember, it wasn't always 40
years of joy, was it? Remember? Many of their friends and family members were
killed before their eyes because of their grumbling and grumping and
complaining in those 40 years in the wilderness. It wasn't always joy-filled to
pick up the tent, to place it back down, set up camp again, to live with such
transiency. And yet, that is what you and I are supposed to live.
It is very fascinating indeed that the people were told to
remember those 40 years in that wilderness, that they would then recall the
gifts that God had given. Then He reminded them of discipline. And you and I
can scratch our head and think…Discipline? In what way does discipline bring
I have heard stories from you all, and you've heard from me,
about our parents and their discipline of us, and we laugh about the things,
and yet we are all so very thankful for such discipline. And to remember such
things aren't always negative. Yes, there were some times when we were
disciplined more than we should, and yes, as parents, we discipline far more
than we should, but nevertheless, we remember the love that was behind the
times when it was the right thing for us to have received.
Then God says, "You shall not live by bread
alone," which they had been fed. Remember? Every day, bread in the
morning; every evening, quail at night. Fed every day, but that was not what
they were to be fed by, for that is just their body, and it becomes hungry
again the next day. Just like yours and mine. "But be fed by the promises
of God from His Word." His mouth, in fact, speaks it into being.
But the same thing you and I are thinking…Well, do we
have to conjure thankfulness up within ourselves? In other words, do we
have to experience something to evoke thankfulness, in order for us to be
thankful? And the problem with thankfulness is that it is like love. It is a
feeling and an emotion that can come in and leave again. And if we think that we
can define our thankfulness by that we feel it, or with the lack thereof
because we don't feel it, God is very clear we don't live by bread alone, but
by every word that proceeds from His mouth.
The same thing that Paul said, "I've learned to be
content whether I'm well-fed or hungry, whether plenty or nothing, because I do
not live by what I see or experience, but by what proceeds from Your mouth, O
God, do I live and breathe and have my entire essence affirmed and set and not
Thankfulness is tied directly in to reception and receiving
things. In the Gospel reading, 10 men received something. They asked not for
healing…check the text…they didn't ask for cleansing. They asked only for
mercy. Christ gave them mercy and physical healing, and yet the nine who
went away and did not return focused and fixated not upon the spiritual gift of
mercy and forgiveness and who it was that spoke them that word that flowed from
His mouth, but rather on the physical healing. Only that one came back because
he fixated upon the spiritual healing even though his body was brand new and
God in the flesh did do such a wondrous thing. Notice what
Jesus says, "Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this
foreigner?" Jesus is making it very clear who He is in the flesh. The flesh
that is before them is perfect and cleansed flesh, and from this perfect and
cleansed flesh did He breathe and speak the cleansing of this leper's body,
more importantly, the cleansing of all 10 of these lepers' souls. But like what
is on the front of this pulpit right here, the seed and the sower, some seed
fell among thorns or shallow soil and grew for a while, and but the cares and
concerns of this world, died out. That sounds like what the nine happened.
But one seed fell among good soil and produced a crop, the
one who came back and praised God. It is the only place in the entire New
Testament where Jesus is given the same accolades as God the Father in being
praised, giving thanks to God. The Greek word eucharisto…we get the word
eucharist from…is what is used in this text, and it is only used here
for the very first time when Jesus, God in the flesh, is given praise as God,
the Creator of all things, the Giver of all things, the Sustainer of all
things, and the Answer to all things. Whether well fed or hungry, whether full
or empty, it is He who has given all.
But it is Satan who wishes us not to focus on what we
received from God, which is tied in to our thankfulness, but rather that which
we have not received, or only those things that have to do with reception of
things in this world for this world's sake, the things that don't last.
What did your parents spend all their time teaching you? To
make wise decisions about the things that really matter in this life, and not
about the things that are going to break, fade away, or what have you, but
about the things that have meaning and matter in this life. If all parents give
that to their children, whether Christian or not, we have been given something
different as God's children by our heavenly Father, that the things that matter
in this life are those things that flow from His mouth.
Where on the night in which He was betrayed, He took bread
and gave thanks, just as that Samaritan did at the feet of Jesus,
declaring Him to be God. And what was the imperative given to that Samaritan
after he had been healed physically and spiritually? "Rise and go your way;
your faith has made you well." He was to continue on his wilderness
journey, just like you and me.
We continue on those journeys, whether we are given a whole
bunch of things for this life or whether we struggle and scrape, whether it's
easy or whether it's difficult at every turn, whether we're trying to figure
out how we're going to make ends meet or whether we are so fat and full,
because here is where we have been healed with the flesh of Christ, the
cleansed flesh of Christ, to cleanse us lepers who come to Him for such
cleansing, where we eat and drink the very thing, God in the flesh, as the
Samaritan bowed down in worship and gave thanks…eucharisto, so we
bow down before the same God, giving thanks and receiving, because thanksgiving
is tied directly to receiving. And it is about the receiving He gives you the
words to say back.
David, who was overwhelmed with such thankfulness, in the
seventh chapter of the second book of Samuel, said this, these are our words of
response to God's gift here where He feeds us with the words of His mouth and
with His flesh that cleanses. "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house,
that You have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in Your eyes…And
what more can David say to You? For You know Your servant, O Lord God! Because
of Your promise, and according to Your own heart, You have brought about all
this greatness, to make Your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord
God. For there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to
all that we have heard with our ears."
Thanks be to God for the words He gives us, that He has
brought us thus far and will continue to bring us to His heavenly mansion, our
home, not this world and nothing in this world, freed at last. In Jesus' name,
the One unto whom we give thanks as God in the flesh, Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting, Amen.