Have you ever received an anonymous gift? Recently i received such a gift after my precious VW passat wagon went out of commission! i have seen this done many times at my church. usually the gift giver doesn’t want to receive the glory of giving, but instead she wants all glory given to God!
Today in America, unlike the original intent of the holiday, thanksgiving is more about the act of giving thanks than it is about to whom we give thanks. in fact on t.v. specials and holiday ads it has become american sacrilege to even hint at giving thanks to God, let alone the triune God. More than that we see many an article such as a recent one Forbes magazine that talks about the benefits of giving thanks; its good for your health, helps you sleep, etc.
So today many an American family sits around their holiday bird focusing on the act of giving thanks as opposed to the one to whom thanks is owed. They give thanks to anonymous; ahh the anonymous God!
God is anything but anonymous. Luke tells us Jesus was completing his final journey to Jerusalem to do what He came to do – die on the cross and rise again for the salvation of All (thankful or not)!
To get to Jerusalem from Galilee, Jesus decided to go straight through Samaria instead of around.
This was an unusual route for a Jew because the jews hated the Samaritans and vice versa. Both would do their best to travel around each other as much as possible. Jesus? As usual, He could absolutely care less about social barriers!
As he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance. (they stood at a distance because they were forced to – their disease was catchable and they were unclean!)
When they heard that Jesus was passing through, the Lepers lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Without any ceremony or handwaving Jesus simply responded, “ “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
This is something a jew had to do according to God himself as instructed to Moses. if one thought she had been cured of Leprosy, she was required to first go to the priest and he would inspect it, offer a sacrifice, and give thanks to God. Jesus obviously assumed that they had been cured!
Well one of them while they were journeying to find a priest noticed that he had been healed! So he turned back, praising God with a loud voice ( sing loud in church friends!); and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. notice that! He was supposed to give God thanks, but who did he thank? well God of course. Who is God? Who is this anonymous God? Jesus! And Luke notes that he wasn’t even a well catechized, pure breed, jew, but a muggle; samaritan.
Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Often times this story is used to encourage people to give thanks! We think we are supposed to be angry that only 1 gave thanks! barbarians! happy thanksgiving ingrates, don’t be like those lepers!
But the others were probably on their way to give thanks just as Jesus instructed. Luke does not relate this event to laud the importance of giving thanks. He tells us this event to teach us to WHOM we should give thanks. God! and not an anonymous God, Jesus!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not give thanks this week to an anonymous benefactor. We do not give thanks to an anonymous God. we aren’t in the dark as to why good things happen or bad. we aren’t at the whim of Fate or Karma or even this general God who stays far aloof from the universe unknown and unkowable!
We know Him! We know His name!
Even Abraham Lincoln got this right when he instituted this holiday. The goal of the holiday was not to give thanks in general, or to give thanks to one another, or even give thanks to an anonymous God! Lincoln makes it clear: “ It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.
“We have been the recipients of the choisest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.”
We know God! He has made himself known especially through His son Jesus Christ! We know His heart as He sent His son to die in our place and rise again! We know that he is for us as he forgives our sins. We are Children of this God! He is our Father! We know the one who rules heaven and earth!
We know His name. We have been intimately tied to Him through the very blood of His Son which washes away all of our sins, of which we consume every Lord’s day looking forward to His revealing!
There are numerous people out there who are frightened of the heavens, who are dizzy from events in their lives and cry desperately, ‘why?’ ‘who?’ ‘what’s next?’
This thanksgiving while you are handing out turkeys, reveal the identity of the anonymous God! His name is Jesus.