Home > Occasions, Other Festivals > Let Them Consider the Steadfast Love of the Lord. Thanksgiving Day Sermon, 2013

Let Them Consider the Steadfast Love of the Lord. Thanksgiving Day Sermon, 2013

Rembrand leperThanksgiving Day

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 17:11-17

November 28, 2013

“Let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord” Ps 107:43



In the holy name of Jesus.


Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.  Ps. 107:43


Jesus often walks in the borderlands.


That’s where the Lord so often appears.  Out on the margins of society.  Among the poor.  Among the desperate, sinful.  Among those who have been knocked down by God’s hand.


There He lifts up those who are cast down. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.  And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.  By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish.  (Ps 107:33-38)


The pilgrims who celebrated the first thanksgiving knew this and experienced it.  They left England because they believed that it was against God’s will for churches to be under any government besides that of the local congregation and because they thought the Church of England’s use of ceremonies like vestments and stoles was sinful, leftovers of the Pope.


They wouldn’t like our Thanksgiving service this morning.

First they went to Holland.  Then they came to New England, the outskirts of the known world.  They didn’t intend to stay here forever.  They got here in the winter of 1620 and that winter half of them died.


Then in the spring they had a visit from an Indian who spoke English.  And there was another one.  They introduced them to the chief of a nearby village with whom they made an alliance.  It turned out that a few years before plague had ravaged the Indians in the area; otherwise it’s quite likely the pilgrims would have been killed early on.  The next fall, in 1621, they celebrated a harvest festival to give thanks to God for preserving them.


God provided for them out on the fringes of the world and gave them a city to dwell in.  And they became a great nation, a nation which, for all its sins, has allowed people freedom to worship God according to their conscience.  Through this nation God gave shelter to our own church, which was born when religious persecution fell on orthodox Lutherans in Prussia in the 1800s.


He appoints for men the place of their habitation; it is God who has given us our place and our time; our families and our homes.  Also this building.  This congregation and its members.



God was at the fringes of the world long before this with the people of Israel and with Moses, whom He appointed to bring them out of slavery.


He provided for Moses to escape from the slaughter of the Israelite babies and be brought up in Pharaoh’s own household.


Everything was set for Moses to be a hero and deliverer of his people.  But when he tried to do it by his own power and zeal, killing an Egyptian, it came to nothing.  He fled to the desert and spent 40 years following sheep.  And then the Lord came to him in the middle of nowhere, at the edge of the world, in a burning bush.


He sent Moses to free the Israelites who were oppressed by Pharaoh. But it wasn’t Moses who would do it; Moses was just a messenger.  The Lord would do it.  He gave Moses mighty signs.  One was that he would put his hand in his cloak and it would come out leprous.  Moses showed God’s power, because the Lord has the power of life and death.


And when Pharaoh declined to listen to the God of Israel, since he was a greater god—the most mighty one on earth, it was widely thought—the God of the desert tribe showed who He was—the Lord of the earth.  Lord of life and death.  He struck Pharaoh with death ten times, turning the Nile to blood, destroying their crops with hail and locusts, finally slaying the firstborn son of every Egyptian.


Then the Lord of the whole earth took this marginal people to give them their own land.  But before that He disciplined them as a father disciplines his son.  He fed them by hand each day for forty years so that when they got into the land of promise they would remember that it is the Lord who feeds them, not themselves.


Just as it had been the Lord who miraculously saved them from slavery and then brought them through forty years of wandering when human help did nothing for them.  When they disobeyed and disbelieved, God punished them.  Then they turned to Him for help, and He saved them.

In the Gospel Jesus is walking in the borderlands, at the fringes.  He is walking between Galilee and Samaria.  The first is the hinterlands of Israel, far from the temple.  And it is a land that is no longer theirs.  It had been taken away.  They came back to it but they were no longer in control.


And Samaria—that was the place where replacement Jews lived.  The ugly reminder that they had been deported.  A foreign ruler had brought other people to live there, and they began to worship the Lord—but not correctly.  They were replacements and the Jews hated them.


Out on the fringes Jesus is greeted by the fringes’ outcasts.  Lepers.


People stricken by God—just like Moses’ hand, except the Lord had not healed them again.


They were walking graves, living corpses.  Dead bodies made a Jew unclean.  God is the God of life.  Death is the punishment of sin.


We don’t usually see sin’s effects so we don’t consider what it is.  But it is like leprosy—it is rot, putrefaction, uncleanness, stench, death.  It rots soul and body.


These men can’t come near to God because of their uncleanness—not at the temple.  Not under the law.


But they come to Jesus.  “Have mercy on us!”  These are the people who always come to Jesus.  This is why the clean people and the holy people are bothered by Him.  He attracts the unclean and the stricken by God; even worse, the sinners who are stained with spiritual disease and cannot become clean again.


“Have mercy on us!”  This is what the helpless and the wretched have cried to Jesus for the last 2000 years; prisoners in jail.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, and whores.


People in boats about to sink; soldiers watching friends being blown to pieces.


Also others in less spectacular trials and needs; the mother going to church every week.


What does Jesus say to this cry: “Have mercy on us?”  He says, “Yes.”


He comes to help in bodily need and in spiritual need.  He comes to be the servant of the wretched.


Go show yourselves to the priests means, You have what you ask.  The priests couldn’t make you clean; they could just affirm that you were clean.


The law can’t bring you in from no man’s land, back into the realm of the living.  Only Jesus does that.  To not be a castaway we need the God who comes to the outer reaches, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, who dwells among us as in a tent, camping out among the refugees, the homeless, the unclean.  This is who Jesus is; He dwells among us in the tent of human flesh, in the likeness of men made mortal by the rot of sin, so that we might take up the everlasting habitations of glorified, resurrected bodies.




We don’t want to remain with Jesus at the fringes.

The Israelites needed the Lord to become a nation, but then wanted to just be a nation and not the Lord’s nation.


The Lepers needed a Lord who came near to the unclean in order to be clean again and join society, but then they didn’t want to be with the Lord on the borderlands, among the unclean.


We also use Jesus to get on our feet; then we go on to bigger and better things.


(We don’t want to be found with him among the unclean, the persecuted, the poor and enslaved, etc.)


Let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord:

He helps them when they cry out to Him in distress


He shows mercy again and again, even to the ungrateful.


He returned Israel to the land—He saves the sailors crying out from the deep; He breaks the bonds of iron that bind the enslaved, delivers those whose bones waste away under the blows of His chastisement.  He wounds and He heals; He afflicts and He forgives our sins.


Giving thanks to the Lord:


He has provided us with great wealth.


Great freedom in this country.


The Gospel in its purity in our church


He has preserved these things so long despite decades of stiff necks


Above everything else He gives us Jesus Christ, who became unclean with sin and cleanses us.


We give thanks: not by self-flagellation


But by faith in His promise


Love toward neighbors—friends, enemies.


Remaining with Jesus

In suffering (into eternal joy)


At the borderlands where there is uncleanness, sin, and death.


“For Christ dwells only among sinners” (Luther)


The peace of God which passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



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