A Sermon for Thanksgiving Day

on Luke 17:11-19 by James A Frey 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


“Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray in the 4th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer.  When we do, we’re not asking for one specific form of food, bread.  The Small Catechism tells us that, “Daily bread includes everything we need for our bodily welfare, such as food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, land and cattle, money and goods, a godly spouse, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”


That’s quite a list, and by blessed Dr. Luther’s own admission not even exhaustive!  Nevertheless, it does describe our life fairly well.  Or does it?  Together with the struggling economy and the threat of terrorism, maybe your health declined a bit this past year.  Or maybe some problem has resurfaced either at work or in your home.  Maybe death itself stormed into your life and snatched a loved one away.  So perhaps you’re inclined to feel that while God has given you daily bread each day, it has often come together with a bitter cup of suffering from which you also had to drink.  How thankful then can you really be?


Extremely thankful, indeed, eternally thankful, for when you pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” you are not just asking your heavenly Father for everything you need for your bodily welfare.  That’s not even for what you are primarily asking him.  Listen again to blessed Dr. Luther, “The bread, the Word, and the food is none other than Jesus Christ our Lord himself.  Thus he declares in John, chapter 6: ‘I AM the living Bread, which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever (John 6:51).’”  Jesus is the true “daily bread” for which we petition our Father in heaven.


And by the way, that is what this cornucopia declares to all who see it.  It shows prosperity, doesn’t it? - our prosperity - and therefore proclaims that our deliverance through Christ Jesus has, in fact, all ready begun.  It’s true!   God, our God, is all ready blessing us.  God, our God, is all ready restoring what we lost through sin.  God, our God, is all ready acting as a Father to us, who have redemption through the blood of his Son, the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7), and so we do have every reason to be thankful today, extremely thankful, indeed, eternally thankful.


Yet giving thanks to God entails more than just gazing with gratitude upon this cornucopia, as you listen to the pastor remind you of some of the good things God has done for and given to you, and then respond with a few hymns of thanksgiving.  Here’s where we turn our attention to that leper of whom we heard in today’s Gospel.  Together with nine other lepers he approached Jesus and cried out with a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  It was a prayer of faith, for they would not have prayed this, had they not believed that Jesus would be merciful to them, but he was. “’Go, show yourselves to the priest!’” he said.  “And as they went, they were cleansed.”


But now this one leper, a Samaritan, showed himself to be different from the other nine, who after they received help were content. After all, their bodies were cleansed, and life was good again. He showed himself to be different because he saw things differently.  What good is health when you will get sick again?  What good is this life when in death it will inevitably come to an end?  And what good will your wealth, your family and your friends do you then?  No good at all.  So this leper “when he saw he was healed, returned and fell down on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.”  For his healing?  Yes, of course, but more than that, because he still hungered for the Bread of life, because he believed that through Jesus the Father is merciful, that through Jesus he forgives sin, that through Jesus he bestows the Holy Spirit upon us, and therefore because he believed that through Jesus God the Father gives eternal life. 


Dear Christians, those who have been blessed with this same faith see their daily bread today not so much in this cornucopia as on that paten and in that chalice.  And because they do, they will receive their daily bread today not so much when they sit down at the table this afternoon to eat a Turkey Feast but rather when we come to this Altar very soon now to feast on the Bread of life, for not only is this the ultimate way our heavenly Father “gives us this day our daily bread,” it is also a “Eucharist” - the Church’s name for the Holy Sacrament, and also, though not coincidentally, the word St. Luke uses to describe the Samaritan’s actions here, that is to say, a proper and most fitting “thanksgiving”.


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  §



The Reverend James A. Frey is pastor of Saint Paul Evangelical-Lutheran Church in BellevilleMichigan and on Thanksgiving Day gives thanks and then later curses his beloved Lions.