November 25, 2009: Thanksgiving Eve

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this glorious night as we come to give You our thanks and praise, move us to focus on what we do have instead on what we don’t have. Move us to recognize our blessings, give thanks for those blessings, be content with those blessings, and not to pine away for gauzy dreams and fantasies. For it is then that our faith in You will make everything whole. Amen


TEXT: Luke 17: 11-19

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

If memory serves me correctly, it was 22 years ago that we began this service on Thanksgiving Eve. Before that, the congregation had worshiped on Thanksgiving Day. But, when I arrived on the scene, the church council asked that we change our worship time in order not to conflict with hectic meal and travel preparations. So, Thanksgiving Eve worship was born at Pinewood.

This service has always been a small one—attendance wise. But, it has also always been one rich in meaning and fulfillment. This is a service for the “diehards.” It is for those who remain at home during the holiday and wouldn’t dream of skipping an opportunity to thank God. As I recently told our organist: “I’d have service if just you, me, and my wife were present.” For God deserves the thanks and praise of His people.

The usual Gospel lesson for tonight is the one before us: the healing of the 10 lepers. It’s meaning is obvious: Christ has earned the thanks of His people. It was about my second year when I preached on this text that an interesting event occurred. The sainted Gertrude Krey, mother of Tirzah, was in attendance. After the service she met me at the door, cocked her head, tilted her omnipresent hat, and said to me: “Where are the other nine?” The memory of that moment still makes me smile.

As usual, Gertrude cut to the chase. She was a bit put out that the “other nine” the bulk of the congregation wasn’t in church that night. And out of love for her Savior, she desperately wanted them to be. All of them had received God’s blessings over the past year. All of them had had their souls healed by Christ’s undying love. All of them possessed health, wealth, and life itself stemming from God’s grace. She knew how much her life was enriched by her Savior. She wanted them to show Him the same honor. So, as she left, she focused her attention on their absence with that question: Where are the other nine?”
Surely, you can do that same thing as you ponder this lesson. After all, it’s a pointed question first spoken by Christ Himself. But, is it the essence of this lesson? No, it is not. The essence of this text is the final words of Jesus to the newly cleansed leper: “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” And that brings us to our theme:


I’ll admit that Christ appears a bit saddened by the fact that 90% of those newly cleansed lepers forgot to give Him thanks and praise. And the lack of a response to Jesus’ question by the returning one shows that that man simply had no answer as to their absence. But note well: Jesus focused the rest of His attention on who did come instead of who didn’t come. It took just one out of ten to gladden our Savior’s heart. It took just 10% of the whole to give praise and thanks to Jesus and for Jesus to accept it with joy. And out of this interchange came the ultimate blessing: “Your faith has made you well.”

Tonight we can learn volumes from this. This service, this holiday or “holy day” isn’t about the many who don’t give thanks, it is about you who do. It isn’t about things we don’t possess, but about the blessings we have received. It isn’t about fantasies in life, but about concrete reality. Too often we get so hung up on being jealous over what others seemingly possess that we lose sight of what God has graciously given to us. Note well that Jesus didn’t do that. After asking about the “other nine” He focused all His energy on the one standing before Him. Likewise, that leper didn’t get so caught up by emotionalism over being healed and dwelling on long-lost family and friends that he lost sight of the One Who caused it all. No, his thanks were directed to the concrete presence of the Savior before him.

As we celebrate this holy day, each of us should do the same. Thanksgiving is an attitude from the heart. It is individual, not corporate. It is about you and your God. It is about you recognizing His gifts and you honoring Him for them. In the end, nothing else matters, does it? So, I’m happy you’ve come. God’s pleased, as well. Your faith has made you well! For even one voice of thanks counts with God. Amen