One day, Jesus was traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee. We know the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along. From the Jewish view the Samaritans had forgotten their heritage. Their ancestors had stopped worshipping in Jerusalem and started worshipping in the mountains of the northern kingdom.
Their ancestors had stopped following the lines of David and had separated and formed their own country. They didn’t like being looked down on by the Jews. They had done the best trying to stay true to their faith.
So, this was a tricky country to go through. In this border 10 lepers came and stood off at a distance shouted, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Leprosy in that day was worse than a death sentence. Any number of skin diseases could be classified as leprosy.
Some were serious and others so irritating. Lepers were required to stay away from people and announce their presence at a distance. And people could not come in contact with them. So, they apparently had heard of Jesus and thought he could heal them.
Sometimes Jesus would really touch the untouchables of his day to heal them. But he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” A leper could be confirmed “cured” if the priests inspected him and found no sign of leprosy. Then he could go through a cleansing ritual and return to his family and community.
It must have been a moment of shock and joy! They were cured! They could return to their families and community. So, they ran to the priests, but one turned back to Jesus and thank him. And he was a Samaritan. Now ten lepers were a mixture of Jews and Samaritans.
Their common trouble brought them together to help one another. When Jesus saw the man he said, “Weren’t there nine of you but only this Samaritan gave thanks. “Go, your faith has made you well.”
Thanksgiving is about a diverse inclusive group of people gathering together out of a spirit of true thankfulness.
What was this man thinking? Think about it. The man who healed you said, ”Go to the priests.” And the healing happened on the way to the priests. What if going in the other direction to return to Jesus undid the healing? Go see the priests first, then you can find Jesus to thank him.
What was this Samaritan thinking? He was stunned by thankfulness that he did not think it through. He just ran to fall at Jesus’ feet and thank him. True thanksgiving springs up from within us. It makes us to praise God. It drives us to fall at Jesus’ feet and give thanks.
That is what Thanksgiving is all about. It is about a diverse inclusive group of people, different in many ways, gathering together out of a spirit of true thankfulness. The Puritans had suffered greatly in the New World. Many of them had died. But the Native Americans had shown them how to farm this new land. They were able to grow enough food over the next winter.
These Native American were different. They looked different, talked different, dressed different, and even worshipped different. I am sure the Native Americans were concerned at first. Here these noisy, smelly, oddly dressed people show up and begin clearing their hunting grounds. But they saw their difficulty and reached out to this group of religious refugees and helped them.
They gave thanks. They both faced a long New England winter and the harvest had provided for their needs. They might have questioned if they thanked the same God. They both gave thanks and feasted. So, the gratitude overflowed their hearts.
Are we thankful? Like the lepers we have been cleansed. Jesus has redeemed us and brought us into a relationship with God through him. And we can know true community and love.
Like the Pilgrims and Native Americans, God has provided for our needs. There is plenty of food and medicine to go around in this world. Most of us will probably eat too much this Thursday. So, we have grace and peace and love and community.
Are you thankful? If you are thankful and you know it - clap “your hands.” If you are thankful and you know it - praise the lord “Amen.” If you are thankful - then your face will surely show it. If you are truly thankful - then your heart will overflow with gratitude. My hope and prayer that all of you will experience that joy of gratitude this Thanksgiving. Shalom and Amen!
Scripture: Luke 17:11-19