The Hymn #574 Come Ye Thankful
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 100 p. 144
The First Lection 1 Timothy 2:1-8
The Second Lection Luke 17:11-19
The Sermon Hymn #361 O Jesus King
Thankfulness toward God
The Prayers and Lord’s Prayer p. 44
The Collect for Peace p. 45
The Benediction p. 45
The Hymn #558 All Praise to Thee - Gounod
KJV 1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
KJV Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
Thankfulness toward God
KJV Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
As Luther observed, some question how lepers could call out to Jesus, since they were so weak. Clearly they stood together to cry out, and they "were not a mile away" as Luther joked. Besides, that Jesus knew their thoughts and their faith in Him.
Faith in God assumes His grace. Those who reject prayer as useless have no faith in the goodness and mercy of God. They give all kinds of reasons, which reveal they are proud of their own thoughts, but give no credit to God or to how He works. In contrast, the lepers did not consider whether they were deserving. They knew they had a profound need. They were shunned, poor, weak, dying. They needed what only God could provide, so they sought that help.
So we should always start and end with faith, knowing and trusting that God is gracious, wise, and all-powerful. We have seen how He has solved a problem overnight. He has toppled powerful kingdoms suddenly, and raised up others just as quickly. And God heals people far beyond any expectations.
If we assume God's wisdom, mercy, and power, then we trust that the way He answers prayer is another example of those qualities. As James says, "without doubting, for a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."
Luther often summarized the Gospel thus:
Now, as I have often said, faith and love constitute the whole character of the Christian. Faith receives, love gives. Faith brings man to God, love brings man to his fellow. Through faith he permits God to do him good, through love he does good to his brother man. For whoever believes has every thing from God, and is happy and rich. Therefore he needs henceforth nothing more, but all he lives and does, he orders for the good and benefit of his neighbor, and through love he does to his neighbor as God did to him through faith. Thus he reaps good from above through faith, and gives good below through love. Against this kind of life work-righteous persons with their merits and good works terribly contend for they do works only to serve themselves, they live only unto themselves, and do good without faith. These two principles, faith and love, we will now consider as they appear in the lepers and in Christ.
They were a brotherhood of pain, misery, and loneliness, so they prayed together, stronger as a group. This miracle did not move forward the way we usually read about them. There is no healing on the spot, but the Word commanding them to show themselves to the priest.
That they left to do that shows their faith. The reason for appearing before the priest is to show that these well known lepers were suddenly pure and clean from the Word of Jesus. Thus the priesthood was confronted with the truth of His divinity.
Whenever Luther comes up, people who remember the PowerPoint or the lecture say, "But he was against James because of James' portrayal of faith." They often go on to show how little they know about James or Luther. That is why so many students today are mandated to take remedial English before really starting college. They look at words, remember a few things, and grasp very little. This is a well known trend, getting worse, for the last 35 years (pre-Internet).
But Luther said this about faith, which is more than believing in God:
9. Behold this good inclination or comforting trust, or free presumption toward God, or whatever you may call it, in the Scriptures is called Christian faith and a good conscience, which man must have if he desires to be saved. But it is not obtained by human works and precepts, as we shall see in this example, and without such a heart no work is good. Therefore be on your guard, there are many lecturers who want to teach faith and conscience, and know less about them than a common blockhead. They think it is a sleepy, lazy thing in the soul, that it is enough for the heart to believe that God is God. But here you observe what a thoroughly living and powerful thing faith is. It creates wholly a new heart, a new man, who expects all grace from God. Therefore it urges to walk, to stand, makes bold to cry and pray in every time of trouble.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
In faith, the lepers asked, and in faith they headed to the priest, healed along the way. In this day of instant, miracle fake healing, that seems odd. However, it was also a test of how they regarded this great blessing. Indeed, anyone with that horrible disease would be delighted.
If healed on the spot, they would have all thanked Jesus profusely. But they were on their way, rejoiced, and kept on going. They were a type of Americans today, pausing a moment but not really thankful for blessings we soon take for granted.
We think we are thankful for our eyes, until our vision fades, then we realize the truth of what Luther said, we should thank God every day for our vision. A blind person would love to have one eye working instead of no vision at all.
The same is true of Lutheran doctrine and practice. Lutherans were once united in worship, classic hymns, the Creeds, and Biblical sermons. Now the country is largely entertained by clowns and loud rock bands of untalented, unbelieving belly-servers. I used to think people sang for free, and choirs did that. But rock groups and traveling "music ministries" charge money to show up and take a big offering besides. Koine, from Jeske Inc, charges $3,000 to show up and shamelessly sells their CDs of cacophony at the church, unmindful of the money changers in the Temple that Jesus disrupted so adroitly, turning over their tables and whipping them with His belt.
Just as true, we take the blessings of Creation for granted and bet of fast-acting toxins and gimmicks instead of treasuring what God has given us and marveling at His engineering and management.
Sunday warmed up and I saw butterflies emerging from a Joe Pye Weed, a plant known for attracting all kinds of pollinators, butterflies especially. After many nights of 20 degree cold, that seemed remarkable, but there are plants that harbor insects when we would never expect it.
Likewise, when I was walking Sassy, I saw two Red-Shouldered hawks, enjoying the mice that were around the out-buildings on the corner. One hawk took his prize to a tree over the walk, holding it and watching us... yes, like a hawk. Most of the time he watched, taking brief breaks to finish his mouse. The natural bounty of this area means we have hawks and owls, plus plenty of rodents and rabbits to feed them.
When we are no longer thankful, we start to lose the blessings given to us from God.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
It was the outsider who was so grateful to Jesus that he came back and praised God in a loud voice. The others went on their way. We find that among Lutherans too. Those who praise themselves for their relatives are careful to preserve the honor of their civil righteousness. Their relatives, their synod, their schools, their traditions cannot be wrong, so they are modern versions of the Pharisees.
To measure everything with the Word is rude, disruptive, and divisive. Someone who favors Luther has "a Luther complex," dismissed by others as not quite right in the head.
This slow walk toward Pharisaical righteousness leaves faith behind and only the prosperity of the institutions matter. But when people demand strong institutions instead of help for their faith, God takes those institutions away from them.
America is very weak about traditional Christianity, but the Third World is just the opposite. The same is true of Episcopalians, to look at one group I have followed. The believers are in Africa, and they are numerous. The apostates are in America, as rich as Midas and just as frustrated with that golden touch.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
The Samaritan is justified by faith, which is easily skipped over as a natural ending. But that means two things. Those who were not thankful, not believing and answering for the true source of their healing - they will lost their blessings, even if they remain cleansed.
The Samaritan will bear the cross, showing himself to the priest as a believer and going against the norms of this society. Thus it is with all believers.
Luther's whole point in this sermon is to emphasize steadfast continuing and active continuing in faith. And then we are in constant communion with God, through the Means of Grace, living the faith and helping our neighbors, not doubting the grace and mercy of God but teaching that in our lives and actions.
Luther on Faith:
17. Behold, so powerful is faith, to obtain all it wants of God, that God considers it done before the asking. Of this Isaiah says, 65:24: “And it shall come to pass that, before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Not as though faith or we were worthy of it, but in order that he might show his unspeakable goodness and willing grace, thereby to stir us to believe in him, and comfortingly look to him for every good thing, with joyful and unwavering consciences, which do not stumble after him nor tempt him. So now you also see that Christ hears these lepers before they call, and before they cry out he is prepared to do all their hearts desire. “Go,” he says, I will not add a word, for it has succeeded in your case farther, no promise or consent is necessary; take what you ask and go.
Are not these strong incentives that make the heart joyful and eager?
Behold, then his grace permits itself to be felt and grasped, yea it grasps and satisfies us. This has been said on the first part, namely, faith.