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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Thanksgiving 11/25

Today’s gospel reading is one of those times where a person wants to go, “What is up with these people?” Here we have ten lepers, the lowest of the low, untouchables for fear of contagion. They appeal to Jesus for help. They call him “Master” and plead for mercy. Jesus asks them to do something simple. They do what he asks, seeming to trust that something will happen just because he said so. While completing the task, the longed for miracle does occur and they are made clean. One of them stops in the middle of doing what Jesus asked him to do to go back and thank him, praising God. Jesus’ response is to question why, if ten were made clean, only one returned to offer praise, and the only one who did was a Samaritan. I mean that just adds extra insult to the thing. If those other lepers were clean, there is no way you would have caught them consorting with a Samaritan like that. Samaritans after all were the ones who only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament. They were considered to be in the dark about the revelation of God contained in the other thirty-six books of the Old Testament. They were unclean religious fools.

Why and how then could he, a Samaritan, be the only one who took the time to come back and profess his gratitude? What were the others doing that they could possibly consider more important than that? Under what authority were they acting? Well, as to what they were doing, it was quite simple. They were doing as Jesus commanded them. They were going to show themselves to the priests, and in doing so seeking to become clean in the eyes of the law. Now as much as we might as “Oh, the law” there was nothing wrong with their seeking to fulfill the law. After all, it’s what Jesus told them to do. They weren’t following it because it was what the priests told them to do, but it was what the man who had so miraculously healed them had told them to do.

However, in their haste to fulfill the task that they had been given, they had forgotten about gratitude. As a result what they owed to another was forgotten in favor of getting the task done. After they had so desperately wanted healing, there is no doubt that they felt gratitude. Yet it went unexpressed, displaced by a to-do list.

While there is a certain sadness in their failure to step back and remember where their focus needed to be, it is something that we too are guilty of. Granted most of us haven’t been suddenly and miraculously healed of skin ailments that rendered us socially untouchable and forgotten to send a thank you note. None the less, most of are guilty of it on a smaller scale.

As a society we have become more and more task oriented, especially at this time of year. How many different foods do we consider essential to a proper Thanksgiving celebration and how long does it take to prepare all of them? For Friday there’s the frantic after Thanksgiving sales. Then there’s all of the stuff that has to get done before December 25th. There are the seasonal gatherings and commitments. The decorations to be taken care of. The things to be baked. The things to be bought. The family schedules to be fretted over. All of those endless things you forget about until you start a list and it ends up longer than your arm.

Why exactly am I talking about them? It’s not that season. We are here to celebrate Thanksgiving and even that’s a day or two away. It’s not time for the rest of it. That’s true. It’s not time for it yet. Yet we keep on letting it spill over. I was out last weekend buying cards and I plan on dedicating this weekend to addressing some of them so I’m not immune to the spill over. I too keep calculating what tasks have to be done. If it’s a contagious disease, I’ve got it.

Each thing we do becomes a bigger and longer series of tasks. It’s why the holidays keep on bumping into each other. There are so many things that we simply must do. We need more and more time. Eventually everything blurs into one. It stops being about celebrating what the holiday is about and becomes about executing a series of tasks correctly.

Despite what the ads tell us, Thanksgiving isn’t about having a perfect turkey. It isn’t about having the day turn out just like we remember it being from our childhood. It’s not even about coordinating twenty different schedules. It’s about taking the time and clearing the space to give thanks. It’s about remembering all of the good that there is. It is about remembering all that we have been given.

When we want to share that special time with loved ones, yes, schedules and the logistics of feeding a house full of people come into play. But they aren’t the point. They are just the prep work to make possible that time of togetherness and thankfulness. But sometimes we forget that and the prep work overtakes everything, including togetherness and thankfulness. We get so hung up on the tasks and doing them right that we lose sight of the point of it all.

We don’t schedule in time to give thanks the way we schedule in time to get our grocery shopping for Thanksgiving done. Of course the whole point of Thanksgiving is for us to stop our business for just one day and to take that time to give thanks. Yet we manage to turn it into a series of tasks that make us busier than ever.

This Thanksgiving take some time, even if it is only a moment, to think not about the food or the game, but all that we have to be grateful for. We have shelter in the midst of snow. We have heat in the middle of cold. We have fresh food regardless of the season. We have clean water at the turning of a tap. We have people we care about in the midst of the increasing isolation of society. We are a part of a community of faith, not just a church, but a community. We have a God of love and healing in the midst of separation and pain. We have so much that we are truly rich with things to be grateful for. Let us take the time to stop and offer praise for it all before we find ourselves moving down the road, so focused on the task at hand that we forget to ever give thanks to the one who has given it all to us.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Vicar Joy Proper


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
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