Thanksgiving Greetings to our BYM! From the bottom of our hearts may we each be filled with an attitude of gratitude!
Lord's Day last Pastor John set the tone for exploring what having an attitude of gratitude really means by reading to us from the Gospel of Luke chapter 7 verses 11 through 19: “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us!' When he saw them, he said, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'”
During this marked year 2020 and its Covid-19 global pandemic we all have learned about social distancing. Pastor John flashed us a poster about it. However, dreadful communicable diseases needing social distancing are hardly new; indeed, through most of mankind's existence they have been the primary category of diseases afflicting people. Only with the huge increase in the food supply starting in Europe and America in the late 19th century did diseases of overconsumption begin to exceed communicable diseases as primary human health hazards. Back in biblical times, a terrible skin-evident disease commonly called leprosy begat by the various species of Mycobacterium meant mandatory social distancing for the afflicted persons. We read about leprosy precautions including social distancing in Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 and in Deuteronomy chapter 24. By the 19th century leprosy and its horrors had even spread to Hawaii. The usual experience when getting it was that one's whole world had come to an end and the rest of one's life was more and more miserable until the release from the disease brought about by death. It is still around; Pastor John showed us a World Leprosy Eradication Day poster illustrating the signs and symptoms of leprosy.
Alright then, we get it: leprosy is really bad stuff
In our scriptural passage ten lepers met Jesus; in their misery He was their last hope. After their brief if intense encounter with Jesus they followed His admonition from Mosaic law and went to the priest to demonstrate their healed status.
Only one of the newly cleansed lepers turned back to give thanks and praise. What about thanks and praise?
Real thanksgiving begins with realizing WHY you are thankful and TO WHOM you should be thankful. Remember from the above Luke 17:15: “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.”
Alright then, just as Pastor John said, the more we see our desperate NEED for forgiveness the more we can be THANKFUL for what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Pastor John illustrated this for us first with a personal story. A while back he received the gift of medicine cabinet additions such as Pepto-Bismol that he hardly imagined that he had need of. Not long afterward he developed a terrible case of heartburn, and it soon became evident that the previous medicine-cabinet gifts were just the answer. How grateful Pastor John now felt towards his gift-giver! Somebody knew better than Pastor John what he really needed. How about us? How grateful are we commonly for the gift of divine forgiveness and salvation? Does our Father in heaven know better than we do what we really need? Might the realization of that produce a really THANKFUL attitude?
From preschool at church you all have learned to give praise to God. Why? When we praise God we are saying OUT LOUD our thankfulness, our gratitude. Praise is our “attitude of gratitude”. We are often inspired enough by our praise to not just thank God, but further, to pledge to live an attitude of gratitude day by day. Though baptized we need constantly to struggle against sin. We struggle in part through the songs of gratitude that play in our head. They can allow us to get a grip on our bondage of sin.
We read in Acts 16:25-26. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” Well?
Well, when we praise God outwardly we are breaking the chains that bind us away from God. In his own case, Pastor John's go-to songs of praise include “God will make a way” and “My life is in your hands” (Kirk Franklin).
Above in Luke 17:16 we read “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan” in humble thanks. We give thanks because we know that whatever the answer – yes, no, or not yet – God is in control and that He has our best interests at heart, as any true father should. We read in Daniel 3:17-18 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” That's the right attitude. Come what may we are humbly thankful to the end because we know our God. Again:
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” everything plus and minus TOGETHER is for good. For this we need to be supremely thankful to our Father in heaven who knows what is best and makes it ALL work together for the best.
Pastor John offered a few more simple illustrations of the differences of wisdom. An infant might delight in the taste of honey, but parents know (or should know) that honey can be very harmful to infants under twelve months of age. Dogs may like chocolate but their owners are supposed to know better. As a boy Pastor John hated Korean school because it interfered with his preferred Saturday morning activities. But because his parents knew better, Pastor John now can at least get by in Korean conversation.
Above in Luke 17:19 we read “your faith has made you well.” Now what really did this mean?Think about it: the other nine lepers were made well physically, but did they acknowledge their need for salvation? No. So, only the one, who humbly threw himself at Jesus 's feet and praised and worshipped him, was healed and saved in the ONE WAY that really matters.
Why did the leper come back? Did he have more feeling? No, the Samaritan leper saw more than the physical. He recognized he was a sinner, and he wanted to be in the presence of Jesus. By his praise at Jesus's feet he was saying “Jesus I am thankful for WHO you are.”
Growing up Pastor John asked for many things from his dad. But in his maturity the one thing that he is really thankful for is the RELATIONSHIP he has always had with his dad. Now, who better loves us than God? How about the relationship that each of us has with Him? Counting our earthly blessings, be they one or ten thousand, is all well and good. Yet the ONLY thing we have that will last forever is our salvation. Before that supremely singular gift we were headed for hell. Now let us think about it...
The only response from each of us is “Thank you Jesus for what you have done, for who you are...”
Our attitude must be one of gratitude - our lives must be lives of thanksgiving.