Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Brothers and sisters, we all know how hard it can be to pray.  The sad truth is that often times our prayer lives lack.  In the prayers that we do offer, we may often pray to God for safety, or help in time our of need, or when we want God to take away whatever it is that is making us uncomfortable in life. How often in life do we take for granted or forget to give thanks to God for the countless blessings which we receive from him? And so on this Thanksgiving Day it is fitting that we recognize those gifts and give thanks to God for all that he gives us.

Thanksgiving Day started with a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. He realized that even in the midst of the civil war with many suffering from its affects, that there were things to be thankful for.  There are many reasons for you to give thanks, even if you are facing hardship and uncertainty in a tough economy. No matter if you are facing a lack of financial certainty or if your heath is wavering, you too have reason to give thanks to God in all circumstances.

I too need to hear this. Often times when life gets busy or when life seems as if it is spiraling out of control, one of the first things to go is my prayer life. I miss seeing all the things God has blessed me with, and forget to give thanks to Him for them. We can become so busy rushing around just trying to make it through the day that we fail to recognize the many gifts God gives to us each day. And so anyone can be taught to give thanks but only the true God can move our hearts to overflow with thanksgiving for His many gifts to us.   






 

Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Brothers and sisters, we all know how hard it can be to pray.  The sad truth is that often times our prayer lives lack.  In the prayers that we do offer, we may often pray to God for safety, or help in time our of need, or when we want God to take away whatever it is that is making us uncomfortable in life. How often in life do we take for granted or forget to give thanks to God for the countless blessings which we receive from him? And so on this Thanksgiving Day it is fitting that we recognize those gifts and give thanks to God for all that he gives us.

Thanksgiving Day started with a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. He realized that even in the midst of the civil war with many suffering from its affects, that there were things to be thankful for.  There are many reasons for you to give thanks, even if you are facing hardship and uncertainty in a tough economy. No matter if you are facing a lack of financial certainty or if your heath is wavering, you too have reason to give thanks to God in all circumstances.

I too need to hear this. Often times when life gets busy or when life seems as if it is spiraling out of control, one of the first things to go is my prayer life. I miss seeing all the things God has blessed me with, and forget to give thanks to Him for them. We can become so busy rushing around just trying to make it through the day that we fail to recognize the many gifts God gives to us each day. And so anyone can be taught to give thanks but only the true God can move our hearts to overflow with thanksgiving for His many gifts to us.   

We as God’s children should not be like the Israelites of the Old Testament reading, who received their great salvation from God when He freed them from their slavery in Egypt. He brought them out with a mighty, outstretched arm and led them through the Red Sea.  Did those Israelites give thanks?  Not really.  The brief thanks they did give were drowned out by their loud complaining for forty years.

In giving thanks we should recognize what God has done and is doing for us. Even in times of struggle, and suffering, God has given us many gifts. Just look at your body and the life that you have.  Our bodies, which are made of trillions of cells, that all work together so that we can go about our daily tasks. This is a wonderful gift from God. Your body is an amazing and complex thing. Just think if one cell gets out of order or tries to do something it was not meant to, we begin to have problems. Suddenly eye sight, or hearing, or touch can be completely altered because of one small cell. God has given us clothing and shoes, things that are in abundance where we live and often taken for granted. In this land we are blessed with great houses and homes that are structurally sound. God has blessed many of us with families that can easily be taken for granted, or can even sometimes become “burdensome” to us when we become busy.  God richly and daily provides us with all that we need to support this body and life.  Not only all of these things, but He defends us against all danger, and guards and protects us from all evil.  All of this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness, and mercy; without any merit or worthiness in us. He gives these things and many more, far more than we could ever count, even in times of hardship.

So far we have said what anyone can say who believes in some sort of god.  But when it comes to giving thanks, we want our hearts to spill over with true gratitude.  For we know, as Christians know that we are sinful, and deserve temporal and eternal punishment.  So we want to give thanks for the biggest blessing of all, Christ Jesus.

If we keep our eyes fixed upon the greatest blessings of Christ and His gifts, then we will have an unending number of things to be thankful for.  On the other hand, if we take Christ and the cross for granted, then, like the nine lepers, we may never come back to thank Him.

There is a warning to take from the nine who were given a great gift but did not receive it in faith. For they did not see Christ and the Kingdom of God standing right before there eyes.  Those who were born Israelites, walked away from their own Messiah and they never looked back.

And we who have been in the Church for years have no special advantage. For if we think that Jesus Christ is no big deal or that there are more important things in life, or if we become bored of hearing Jesus’ words and receiving his gifts, than we too, will find ourselves walking away from the Son of God.

Maybe to help us realize what a great gift we have received, we should first look at the condition we were in when God gave us this gift.  You see it’s not simply that we were beggars who had nothing.  We were lepers.  We were untouchable and unclean. Sin so filled us that we could not even feel our great need for Christ.  The disease of sin deadened our nerves so that we were numb to our spiritual condition. More than that, the pollution of sin made us disgusting and repulsive in God's sight.  We were outside of God's fellowship, unable to receive His gifts, unable to be in the community of His people.  We had to stand at a distance as the lepers did, outside of society. So why would He bother with us, the untouchables, the lepers? After all, who would let a leper inside their own house?  Who would dare to invite the most repulsive members of humanity to set foot under their roof and mingle among their family? Yet here you are.  You lepers are inside God's house!  You Gentiles are inside the holy Temple of the Lord!  Christ Jesus has brought the Temple to you, because He is the Temple.  He is the Sacrifice and the Priest.  He is the presence of God.  He is the place where prayers are properly brought, because no one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ.

Instead of being lepers who shout from a distance, Christ hears your every whispered prayer.  He is with you, close by, not far away.  He is not afraid to come among spiritual lepers, and even allows Himself to be touched by unclean and diseased hands.

This is the Jesus who went up to Jerusalem, knowing full well what was about to happen to Him.  This is the Jesus who laid down His very life as the atoning sacrifice for your sin.  He has sprinkled His blood upon you to cleanse you of all your impurities.  All of human intelligence and medical wisdom could never cure the disease of sin, which always leads to death.  But Christ, the Great Physician, gave you the one and only cure for sin: His precious Blood, shed upon the cross for you.

In this way, Jesus took the leprosy of your sin upon Himself, and carried it all the way to the cross.  He became despised and was rejected by men.  On the Cross, Christ was the greatest leper of all, from whom even the Father turned His face.  All this He did to bring you before the Father, to present you, clean and whole and healthy, without any blemish.

When Jesus finished His work, He had made the Temple in Jerusalem obsolete.  Who needs a Temple when all sacrifices have been abolished by the one true atoning sacrifice on the Cross?  Who could ever add anything to the infinite value of the Lamb of God?

The tenth leper rightly returned to Christ because he saw that at the feet of Jesus is the proper place for worship.  That man who was formerly a leper knew how great a gift he had received.  He who had formerly had no right to come close to any healthy person now was worshiping at the feet of the glorious and pure Son of God.

We can see how much Christ has done for us, when He says to us, “your faith has saved you,” it’s then that our hearts are filled with thanksgiving.  When Christ and His atonement fill our hearts, how can we keep our mouths from glorifying God?  He is the Lord who opens our lips, so that our mouths may shout forth His praise.

And so the Divine Service is filled with the cries of lepers, who kneel at the feet of Jesus to worship Him.  We cry out in the Kyrie, "Lord, have mercy," as if we were saying, "Lord, Son of David, look with pity on us, for we are unclean lepers."  For our leprosy still clings to our flesh, so that we are constantly weak and are in constant need of His mercy.  But then He takes our weak, feeble voices and creates praise in them by His Spirit, as we sing the song of angels, in the Gloria in Excelsis.  There unclean lepers join with immaculate angels to praise their Lord forever. Amen.

Almighty and Gracious Father, grant us grace to always return thanks to You through Jesus. Open our lips to give thanks to you in all times, recognizing that all things come from you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a