Today we celebrate Thanksgiving. I can’t think of a better day of the year to be thankful for what God has given you, for what you have in your life, for what has happened in your life, both good and bad, things you have learned from which were not pleasant at the time, and things that were really meaningful experiences that were pleasant at the time, and you can look back at both of these experiences, good and bad, and say I learned something from this experience, from this time in my life, or you can say wasn’t that time a wonderful time in my life and give thanks to God, and to each other, and to others that helped make it a wonderful experience.
In the parable we read out of the Gospel passage this evening, there were ten lepers that were healed. One of the ten turned back, one out of ten, turned back to give thanks for a remarkable event in his life. And Jesus says, didn’t I heal 10 lepers, but only one of them turned back to give testimony to be grateful for what had happened in his or her life. And, not only did only one turn back, but the one that turned back was a Samaritan, not someone that was considered worthy or good enough to be on the inside of the religious circles. Samaritans were considered to be unclean and did not worship God in the right way. Samaritans were on the outside of the religious folk, didn’t have the right stuff, the right dogmas, didn’t have it all together.
So the story in this parable is this: Give thanks for what is happening in your life. Do not take things for granted. Have a grateful heart. Don’t take things for granted. Let’s not just go through life and not pay attention to what’s happening in us, around us and to us. What has God done in your life? What have you learned? What stands out special? As I was thinking about this I was reminded of so many occasions in my life that give me pause, times that I am grateful and thankful for.
One special occasion comes to me. I remember living in Portland, Oregon, and we were there so I could go to Bible College. Naomi was pregnant with our first son, Nathan. I was working at night and going to school in the day. We were so poor and needy at that time. You’ve heard the expression “we are so poor we don’t have two nickels to rub together”. That was us, but we were making it. We were happy, in love and wonderfully involved with the church, friends and each other. Of course, on recollection you could say we were young and stupid, and didn’t have enough since to come in out of the rain.
One night we were walking on one of the city streets that were near our apartment. We discovered 2 quarters in our pocket, and at the time, that was enough for two coffees and two doughnuts, so that’s exactly what we spent our last 50 cents on. Then we were broke, but we really enjoyed our coffee and doughnuts. It was a special time in our lives. Everything was before us. We were looking forward to the child that was to be born soon. We were thankful about where we lived, having food, shelter and a job, and among people that cared and went out of their way to care for us and make sure we were okay. I am thankful for those times. They are priceless memories, memories that are beyond cost.
There are times in our lives when we should be thankful. I am reminded of that scripture in Romans that says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) What are you thankful for? Don’t be like the 9 lepers that were healed and did not turn back with a thankful heart and give thanksgiving. Let us be like the one that did turn back and say thank you Jesus for that awfully good thing you have done in my life.
November 28, 2014
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen