A Thanksgiving Sermon by Rev Frederick M Chapin
December 28b, 1995

Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. (Ps. 50:14 & 15)

Throughout the Word, the Lord desires from us humility and thanksgiving. We are to continually confess that our salvation is solely from Him, and without the Lord, eternal life would be impossible. The Lord taught our absolute dependency upon Him when He told His disciples:

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me You can do nothing. (Jn 15:5)

We are humble before the Lord when we sincerely acknowledge that our salvation is totally from Him.

Along with humility, we are also told to be thankful before the Lord. The words of our text states that we are to go before the Lord with thanksgiving. We are to make the effort to recount the blessings He has bestowed upon us. If we go before with the genuine recognition of our dependency on Him for our salvation, we are at the same time truly grateful for the wonderful things He has given to us, whereby we are approaching Him properly.

When we look at the command to go before the Lord with humility and thanksgiving, we may be tempted to think the Lord enjoys being praised and worshiped for His own sake. We might think that somehow He is invigorated when we recognize our absolute need for Him. We may also conclude that somehow He is offended if we do not acknowledge His Divine power nor mention all the things He has blessed us with. In reality, such is not the case. Instead, as we have read in our third lesson, the Lord desires humility and thanksgiving not for His sake, but for our sake. (AC 5957) We receive all the benefits when we are spiritually humble and thankful before the Lord. The Lord is happy, not because of what our thankfulness can do for Him, but strictly for what it can do for us.

Accordingly, genuine worship of the Lord does require thanksgiving. By the act of giving thanks, we are acknowledging that all life comes from Him alone, that He has Divine power from Himself, that He rules over all things, and that He alone is the infinite God. (AR 522) The Lord can only enter our lives when we make such a confession. The Lord can only have His Divine power active in us when we are truly grateful for Who He is and for what He wants to give us. (AC 5957) He certainly desires to enter every person equally. But He can only do so when we are humble and thankful. Only when we are appreciative for the Lord’s Divine love toward us, will we be willing to receive His guidance. If we are not thankful for the Lord’s Divine blessings He offers, then there is no desire to receive them. We cannot enter into a state of humble thanksgiving so long as we only love ourselves. When love of self is our chief love, the Lord cannot enter in and become active within us. Conversely, giving thanks to the Lord helps us to recognize our need for Him, whereby we are receptive of His love and wisdom. This can only happen if we in genuine humility before the Lord.

Also, the habit of giving thanks can remind us of our liberation from the hells. We need to always be aware of the Lord protecting us from the attacks of evil spirits. This reminder can comfort us and make us fully secure in the Lord’s protection. Giving thanks to the Lord can be such a blessed reminder.

This is why the Lord expressed such joy when a leper returned to give thanks for his cure. This person was able to have a deeper appreciation of the Lord than what the other nine had. In the story, the Lord was traveling to Jerusalem. While He was traveling, He entered a certain village where there were ten lepers who stood at a distance. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases in Biblical times. At its worst, leprosy would cause the joints in the fingers and toes to fall off. It could also consume the eyes, nose, tongue, and even the palate, producing a severely deformed face. However, in most cases, leprosy was nothing more than a skin disease, in which raw flesh would temporally appear. In these cases, what made leprosy dreadful was not the disease itself, but the way of life a person had to lead while the disease was present. The person would have to be isolated from everyone else, and warn people of the leprosy, if they were to come near. One was regarded almost as a dead person if he or she had leprosy, no matter how minor it was. (Nu 12:12) Therefore, the isolation that one would have to suffer made leprosy a terrible thing to have.

This is why the ten lepers cried to the Lord to have mercy on them, for they wanted to resume a normal life. The Lord told them to go and show themselves to a priest. This act did require faith. When a leper no longer had raw skin appearing, he or she would be examined by a priest. If the priest felt that the leprosy was indeed cured, he would pronounce the leper clean and the person could eventually rejoin society. Therefore, when these lepers made their way to the priest, they were anticipating that by the time they met him, their leprosy would be healed. And it so happened. As they went, their leprosy was cured. One leper was so grateful that he returned to the Lord to give thanks before he went to the priest to be pronounced cleansed. This former leper was able to rejoice more in his cure than the other nine, because the Lord said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” (Lk 17:19) This leper, by taking the time to give thanks was able to have a greater assurance that he was a part of the Lord’s kingdom than the rest. And because he had a greater assurance, he was able to have a deeper love towards the Lord and His teachings.

Like the thankful leper, we also must give thanks to the Lord for our spiritual healing. When we sense a peace and contentment in life that is in accord with the Word, we must be willing to acknowledge and recognize that our spiritual healing did not come from ourselves, but solely of the Lord’s Divine love and wisdom. And we make this acknowledgment by giving thanks, just as the leper acknowledged the Lord’s healing powers by thanking Him. We can only thank the Lord when we have a true faith in Him. (AC 10083:5) We have genuine faith in the Lord when we acknowledge that He is the one God of heaven and earth, that all life proceeds from Him, all salvation or regeneration is from His Divine power, and that His mercy is extended to every individual in His creation. And our acknowledgment of the Lord and faith in Him becomes even stronger when we go through the act of giving thanks.

Therefore, it can be helpful at this time of the year to be reminded that we are to give thanks to the Lord for the natural and spiritual benefits He has bestowed upon us. Giving thanks can reaffirm the truth that our spiritual rebirth comes from the Lord, not ourselves. And just as the leper could live a more satisfying and productive life after the Lord healed him, so too will we find life more enriching and fulfilling when our spiritual diseases are healed. And when we are spiritually made anew, we become more receptive of the Lord’s Divinity. This wonderful promise can happen when we go through the acts of giving thanks.

But what are we to give thanks for? We are to be thankful for the ability the Lord has given to each one of us to know, understand, and apply the truths contained in His Word. (Dan. 2:23) We are to give thanks that when Divine truths are applied in our lives, the Lord is then able to deliver us and protect us from the miseries and frustrations that exists in hell. (Ps. 18: 48 & 49) And when we are delivered from hell, we are able to enjoy the peace the angels have. (Ps. 30:11 & 12) When we have a perception of the course the Lord would have us take in our lives, and we sense our liberation from the grip the hells had over us, than we are assured the Lord is active in our lives. This assurance that the Lord is near to us can make giving thanks a precious act to perform. For we can say the words of the Psalm:

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near. (Ps 75:1)

Therefore, thanksgiving before the Lord is sincere and genuine only when we are committed to allow the Lord to regenerate us. (Ps 106:47) The Lord’s “wondrous works that declare His name” is displayed while He is creating us into angels.

Therefore, all throughout our lives, and especially during this holiday season, we should give thanks to the Lord. We should regularly make the effort to focus on the wonderful gifts, natural and spiritual, which the Lord has mercifully allowed us to enjoy. And while we are giving thanks, we do not have to neglect problems, difficulties, or the hardships which we may be experiencing. Giving thanks and voicing our troubles are not incompatible with each other. We can be sincerely thankful while at the same time praying that certain things be made better; we can call to mind our discouragements at this time of the year. Nevertheless, as we present our anxieties before the Lord, we can still be thankful that the Lord understands what we are going through and He can deliver us from our troubles. When we are willing to go before the Lord with thanksgiving, especially by having the desire to obey the Lord’s teachings, the words of the Psalm becomes real, “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Ps 50: 14 & 15)

The Leper Cleansed

The Leper Cleansed

Matthew 8:1-5

When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him, and behold, there came a Leper and worshiped Him, etc.

Q. WHAT do you conceive to be here figured by the Leper, who is the subject of this Miracle ?

A. The Leprosy, like all other bodily diseases prevalent at the time, was a representative figure of spiritual disease, and the spiritual disease which it represented, was the profanation of Good and of Truth, which then prevailed in the Jewish Church.

Q. And what do you understand by the profanation of Good and Truth?

A. Man is guilty of profanation, and is thus a spiritual Leper, whenever he has been initiated into the knowledge of what is true, and into the love of what is good, and afterwards acts contrary to such knowledge and love. This evil of profanation is represented by what Jesus Christ says concerning the unclean Spirit, that when he is cast out, he says, I will return to my house from whence I came out. Then he goes and takes to himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man, is worse than the first) (Matt. 12:43-46). The lord therefore, in his merciful providence, exercises a peculiar care over mankind, to prevent, as far as possible, their receiving more knowledge, and being affected with more love of what is right and good, than they can be supported in to the end of life, because the profanation of what is good and true exposes man to a more grievous condemnation than he can be exposed to by mere ignorance of, and insensibility to what is good and true, agreeable to those words of Jesus Christ, where He says, ” That servant which knew his lord’s will, and pre- pared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many blows; but he who knew not, though he committed things woryour of blows, shall be beaten with few, (Luke 12:47, 48). The Leper then, who is the subject of this Miracle, is a representative figure of all those, who have once admitted into their minds the knowledge of heavenly things, and been made sensible of the love of them, and who afterwards decline from such knowledge and love, in consequence of immersing their thoughts and affections again in the selfish and worldly love which they had forsaken.

Q. But it is said of the above Leper, that he worshiped Jesus Christ, saying, lord, if you will, you can make me clean — what do you understand here by the Leper’s worshipping Jesus Christ ?

A. The worship of Jesus Christ implies the acknowledgement of His divinity, and thus that He was god made man in One Divine Person. Such worship therefore is here recorded of the above Leper, because the acknowledgement of the divinity of Jesus Christ is the necessary qualification to draw from Him the operation of His Divine Virtue for the cure of disease whether mental or bodily.

Q. And what do you further understand by the Leper saying, lord, if you will, you can make me clean?

A. These words involve confidence, on the part of the Leper, in the Omnipotence of the incarnate god, whom he now worshiped, which confidence was grounded in the conviction, that Jesus Christ is able to accomplish every purpose which is in agreement with His Own divine order and providence; in other words, that He has power to effect all things which are not contrary to the laws of His own appointment, thus to the determinations of His Divine Will. This confidence therefore is here recorded, because it is another essential qualification for receiving all the benefits and blessings resulting from the Divine Operation.

Q. But it follows, that Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will, be you clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed — What do you here understand by Jesus putting forth his hand?

A. By the hand is denoted power, because the hand is formed to execute the determinations of the will, in which all power originates.    By the hand of Jesus, therefore is represented  Divine Power, which is Omnipotence, and by putting forth the hand is signified the exercise of that Omnipotence, thus the fulfillment of the purposes of the Divine Mercy and Love,    According this sense, it is to be understood that the blessed Jesus is always putting forth his hand, because he is always in the act of relieving the infirmities, soothing the sorrows, and healing the spiritual distempers of all his children who believe in his divinity, and have confidence in the omnipotence which he possesses as the only god of heaven and earth.

Q. And what do you conceive to be further meant by Jesus touching the Leper and saying, I will, be you clean ?

A. By touching is here to be understood the communication of that omnipotence which is signified by putting forth the hand, in other words, its application to the distempered principles which it intended to cure. It is therefore added, I will, be you clean, because the expression, I will, is significative of the Divine Intention or Purpose, as originating in” the Divine Mercy or Love, whilst the expression, Be thou clean, denotes, with equal emphasis, the accomplishment of that intention or purpose, through the application of an omnipotent energy to the malady which was to be removed. It is therefore further to be under stood, not only that Jesus Christ is perpetually putting forth his hand, and touching his distempered children, who with confidence supplicate his Divine Aid, but likewise that he is perpetually saying, as in the present instance, I will, be you clean, in other words, that he is perpetually declaring the purpose of his mercy to relieve the wants and heal the infirmities of his penitent and humble children, and is always in the act of executing that purpose, whenever his children are in a proper state of heart and of life to admit his Divine Operation.

Q. And  what  do  you  understand by what next follows, where it is said,  immediately Ms leprosy was cleansed?

A. The blessed Jesus had before expressed the purpose of His Love, and also its operation, in the emphatic words, I will, be you clean, and therefore now the effect of that purpose and operation is described. Thus we are instructed that every Divine Work is threefold, including in it Intention which is of love, design which is of wisdom, and effect which is of operation; and thus too we are instructed further, that in every effect there must be a cause or design, and in every cause or design there must be a purpose or end; and that consequently in every work of creation and redemption there is a manifestation of Divine Love and Wisdom, of which such work is therefore an exact representative type or figure, so that the whole of creation may be regarded as a theatre representative of the Divine Principles in which it originates, which are love, wisdom and use.

Q. But It is written that Jesus says unto him, See you tell no man, but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded) for a testimony to them — what do you conceive to be here meant by the injunction, See you tell no man?

A. According to the sense of the letter, this injunction implies, that the cleansed Leper should be silent respecting the Divine Operation from which he had received such an extraordinary benefit, and in this sense of the term, it contains an useful caution to those, who are forward to speak of the experience they have had of the Divine Mercy, and who consider it as a crime to conceal from others the blessings which have been bestowed on themselves. But according to the spiritual idea, the injunction implies that the Miracle worked should not affect the understanding only, by being regarded merely in an intellectual view, or as a point of curious speculation, but should affect the will of its cleansed subject, by being regarded as an effect of the pure love and mercy of the most high god. It therefore follows, Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. For by the injunction, Go your way, is to be understood a requirement to live according to the mercy which had been experienced; and by the further injunction, show yourself to the priest, is to be understood an opening of the mind to the consideration and reception of the good of heavenly love and life, which good was figured and represented by the priest under the Jewish law; and lastly by the injunction, offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony to them, is to be understood the grateful and devout acknowledgment that all spiritual cleansing and purification, especially in the case of the profanation of Good and Truth, is the sole effect of the Divine Loving-kindness, and a proof most positive of the Divine Omnipotence.

Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this Miracle?

A. I learn from it, in the first place, to adore that Divine Power and Goodness, which when manifested here on earth in a bodily form, was exercised on the bodies of men, by the removal of bodily disease and infirmity, and thus proves the original of that form to be from the father of mercies. And I learn from it, in the next place, to reflect with consolation and confidence, that the same Divine Power and Goodness is continually flowing from the glorified body of the great redeemer, to remove all spiritual disease and infirmity, even that greatest of all distempers, the profanation of Good and Truth, in all cases where Divine Aid is supplicated out of a humble and penitent heart for the purpose of removal. Lastly, I learn what are the qualifications to receive the healing gift of the Divine Mercy, and that they consist, first, in the acknowledgement of the incarnate god in His divine humanity; and secondly, in the confidence that He has Omnipotence, in other words, that He can do all things consistent with His own order, and with the laws of operation which He Himself hath been pleased to appoint. I am resolved therefore from now on to believe in this Omnipotence of the incarnate god, and to apply to Him, and to Him alone, for relief under all my spiritual distempers, and never to despair of His Divine Aid, even though I should inadvertently offend against His holy laws, and thus incur the guilt of profaning them. amen.