Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
who rules by his might for ever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.
Call to Worship: (Psalm 66: 1-4)
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.’
Hymn: Now thank we all our God
O dear Lord, We worship you with joy, full of hope and love, praising your name, giving glory to all that you are to us. You are the source of our life, faith, hope, and love. Receive our worship.
As we bring ourselves in gratitude on this Thanksgiving Sunday, we tell of your great works to ourselves and to all those around us. In this time when the world is mired in wars and talk of wars, we come to give you thanks for the very peace you have entrusted in us through your Son our Lord. In this peace, we find you and are sustained by your presence with us. Your steadfast love has been our strength. Your unwavering faithfulness continually brings us to you day after day, Sunday after Sunday.
Today, O Lord, as we reflect on your everlasting blessings that help us flourish, we thank you and bring this worship. Be glorified! Be blessed evermore! Amen.
Scripture Reading: Luke 17:11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
Today, as we give God thanks, we explore the meaning of life of gratitude. As Christians we are the people among all peoples of this world who ought to embody the eternal life here and now. As those who become glimpses of eternal life with God, we ought to truly live and express eternal life as a life of gratitude and thanksgiving. Today let us explore what life looks like if we live in gratitude, always giving thanks.
Have you noticed how people no longer say thank-you? Hold a door open, let a car come in front of you while you are driving, or show a bit of kindness when you meet a stranger. What happens? Usually nothing. Others take advantage of kindness that is offered. We were not looking to be thanked after all, right? Should we thank stores that offer sales? Of course not. After all, they want our money in exchange for their overstocked items, no? In fact, we may be doing the stores a favour. There is no reason to thank anyone when we know sales are for attracting us into their stores. Why thank anyone? We are entitled to sales just like we are entitled to bud in since we gave signals to get in front of others.
Our minds have wonderful ways of reasoning and justifying our actions. I am sure that those nine lepers who did not return to thank Jesus had good reasons. Were they not entitled to healing as God’s chosen people? God should have been their protector to begin with. Don’t God’s people have promises from God for protection from all ills in life for being the faithful people?
When we wonder out loud, “Why me?” in life’s difficulty, in a sense we are questioning why we are subjected to pain and suffering. Implied in the why-me question is our understanding that we are entitled to a life of health and enjoyment. If we are faithful to God, should God not reward us with a comfortable and worry free life? In a way as children we have been taught that God would look after us if we live life according to God’s command and be good in this world. This teaching is what makes atheists and agnostics to wonder out loud why loving God fails innocent people who do their best to be good. They argue that the suffering of the innocent proves our belief in the existence of a loving, caring or compassionate deity is nothing more than an imagination of creative minds.
When Jesus asked where the other nine were and how it was that only the foreigner came to thank him, Jesus was probably not looking for thanks. Indeed, in all other healings he performed, he was satisfied with people glorifying God. Here, however, Jesus specifically raises the question. Of course it is impossible to know clearly what Jesus was thinking at the time of the question. We can, however, see why the question may arise by examining his ministry.
It is not too difficult to see why nine lepers who were Jews did not return to thank God. Their faith in God who saves was real. They were told the stories of how God delivered them from the slavery in Egypt and gave them the land of milk and honey when they cried out to God. They knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be faithful to them. After all, they would recite psalms in their Temple saying, “The steadfast love of God endures forever,” and read the stories of God’s mighty work of saving Israel, as well as the were taught the lessons that keeping God’s law would be rewarded as God rewarded King David for his faithfulness. That is, they knew that if they called on God in their troubles, God would save them. That would mean they would thank God directly in the Temple now that they were made well.
Their theology would have led them to glorify God, not Jesus. After all, Jesus was only an intermediary, just like a prophet. Is this why we read all over the four gospels that whenever Jesus healed, people glorified God? Isn’t this why we as Christians not thank people, but God when good things happen to us? Out of this faith and of our humble humility we are taught to point to God as the source of all good things. In a way this is why unlike the people of our world, more mature Christians deflect any expressions of thanks for all good work we do to God rather than pointing to ourselves as the good people. Yes, we have created the culture of minimizing our role as “good” people. We do good work on God’s behalf. We do not take credit for all good we do because as we learned from the Bible that we are sinners and none of us is righteous.
Sadly our humility and humbleness of pointing to God is misunderstood as our refusal to receive thanks and expressing gratitude to each other for sharing and caring. By teaching one another to give God glory, we created this strange culture where thanking others for kindness is seen as not so good because it might make those who receive thanks proud or seekers of glory. It is true that thanking people for being nice to us does make us expect an appropriate response for gifts for what we have done to others. This is the case when we reward children or pets for good behaviour and in return children or pets act certain ways. It is true that people demand rewards for being good. Isn’t the Christian promise of eternal life based on the same understanding? “Be good if you want to have eternal life” is the message.
Probably in those nine lepers' minds, their healing did not require expressing their thanks to Jesus. They could easily glorify God, but thanking Jesus is furthest from their minds. After all, if they were healed, it was because they were entitled as God’s chosen people. You see They were finally reconized and rewarded forbeing the descendants of Israel. They were rightly restored to their place. What’s there to thank Jesus for? On the other hand, the outsider had all the reasons to be thankful. Jesus could have excluded him, but chose to include him in this healing miracle. Jesus was the reason that this leper who was not an Israelite received his cure. Without Jesus, he would still be suffering. He was not entitled, but was shown grace. No? This would have been a way of thinking in response to where those nine were.
From the very beginning in his ministry Jesus worked hard to change the perspectives of the people of Israel. Jesus emphasized God’s grace. It was not because of the entitlement of the people of Israel as descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob he came to save them. He came because of God’s love/grace for the people of Israel. Salvation was not something that they could earn. Salvation was being given by God in fullness of grace because they deserved it. People being healed was not a miracle that pointed simply to God’s power over nature. In Christ’s ministry these miraculous healings were part and parcel of what eternal life or life of salvation looked like. Eternal life is where everyone was restored to her wholeness. That the sick were healed means Jesus graciously embodied God’s love for the people. In response to this grace they were to praise God and give thanks to Jesus who bought this gift of healing. The sad reality was that those nine healed lepers did not even know how to express thanks to Jesus who brought and made real in their own physical well being this sign of eternal life. Gratitude was missing while entitlement gave them joy.
On the other hand, for this Samaritan, though he worshipped God and had Jacob as their ancestor also, he turned back to Jesus and thanked him. When he saw that his body was healed he immediately knew that God’s mercy touched him. In response he expressed his gratitude to Jesus as he was praising God. Yes, he did not forget to praise God. That’s what he did first: praising God. He was glorifying God. He also thanked Jesus for bringing God’s mercy to him. He knew without Jesus, they would still be lepers. In the end when these ten lepers shouted to Jesus to have mercy on them, Jesus responded on God’s behalf. Without Jesus their healing would not have been possible. Jesus heard their cries. Jesus bestowed upon them God’s mercy as they requested.
We tend to forget what God’s mercy is like because we want to hear directly from God. We can see how unable we are to notice God’s mercy all around by the way we live. As we saw in the examples where people no longer thank for acts of kindness and take others’ care as their entitlements, we experience our own lack of gratitude and thankfulness everyday. We know that we are not in positions of privilege to receive service from others. We also know that we do not have the right to take advantage of others’ kindness. We do not deserve to be served by others simply because we feel that we are special. This is why we express our thankfulness when others are kind to us, show us courtesy, and treat us with dignity. When we are able to fully appreciate these small mercies given to us as gifts, we respond by expressing gratitude.
Others will certainly say that their kindness is nothing more than their nature. Of course, many people are kind and compassionate without being Christian. For us, however, we understand that the origin of these small mercies are also from God as much as the life changing gracious mercies of God. We make no distinction between the size of mercies to indicate which ones come from nice people and which ones are from God. Instead, we receive all–both small and large–mercies as from God. When we receive these mercies, like the Samaritan whose leprosy was cured, we praise God and thank those through whom these mercies were given to us. Without those who bring God’s mercies, we live life without mercies. So we express our thanks to those through whom God’s mercy reaches us. It is very ironic that those who do not feel entitled are thankful while those who have been blessed seem to take every grace granted.
Christians are by nature “outsiders.” We are in the world, but not of the world. As those at the margins, we are able to see even the small things that our society takes for granted. We are able to appreciate and be thankful for tiny mercies whenever they are given even by strangers. As spiritual foreigners, we identify these mercies extended by everyone as from God. We in response praise God and thank those who offer them to us. In the same way, we praise God and thank those who are with us and among us for all they do in life. Praising God and thanking those who bring God’s mercy are the way we show what it is to live in eternal life. Those who are not Christian get to see, experience and know eternal life when in praise to God we thank them for even the smallest kindness they show.
Surely all parents teach their children to thank those who bring gifts of mercy shown through kind actions. I often hear mothers instructing their children to say thank you. The best Christian teaching children get is when they see their parents giving praise to God and thanks to those who share God’s grace and mercy.
As we know, once we begin receiving others as from Christ and what others do for us as God’s mercy coming through them, we begin to notice God’s grace and mercy everywhere. It is no wonder that we live a life of praise to God as well as in gratitude. On this Thanksgiving, let us become like this Samaritan who praised God and thanked Jesus for the healing mercy he received as we participate in life praising God and giving thanks for all the blessings that God has given us.
Prayer of Thanksgiving (by the Rev. Dr. Robert Faris, moderator of The PCC)
Creator, Holy One, Great Spirit,
We give thanks this day for all your good gifts of creation.
For the gift of heat and light from the sun
And for the gentle light and comfort of the moon.
For the Earth, our mother,
who has birthed us and nurtured us, and supplied our needs.
For the gifts of the rocks and the soil on which we stand, of air to breath,
of water to drink, of food to eat and of fire to keep us warm.
For the great rivers that flow through this land,
constantly renewing and refreshing the creatures who live here.
For mountains and plains, woodlands and stony places.
For all creatures that share this land with us,
the plants and the animals
who each have their place and their responsibilities.
We give thanks for the people who inhabit this land
and especially for the Indigenous peoples
who have been here and have stewarded this land for thousands of years.
We thank you for their wisdom
and for their medicines that help us to live with respect and in right relationship in this place.
We give thanks for all who have been welcomed here from other territories and lands.
For all your children we give you thanks,
And for the gift of your child Jesus, in whose name we pray.
For those who are interested in helping the people of Maritime provinces recovering from Fiona the tropical storm, you can do so by donation indicating PWS&D for Fiona on your envelope. I have also contacted churches in New Glasgow and asked if there is a way we can help. They will let us know. I was told that some people ended up with lots of water damage due to a prolonged heavy rain.
Please remember to come and join us for Tuesday Cinnamon Bun fellowship. It continues at 10 am on Tuesdays as usual.
We are planning for a midweek worship service on Thursdays afternoons. If you are interested, please, let us know.
Gracious and generous God, we offer our gifts in gratitude for all we receive from your hand. Bless and multiply them, just as Jesus multiplied a few loaves and fishes to bless others. Use them so others can taste your love in our community and in your world, through the grace of Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn We plough the fields and scatter