THE LEPER’S GIVING THANKS
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)