(Deuteronomy 8:7-18, Psalm 65)
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Few of us have ever experienced amnesia in our lives. Not the typical forgetfulness that comes with age. We all become forgetful the older we get. Our memory banks can only hold so much and over time they become full. Our bodies naturally pick and choose which memories to hold onto and which to let go. There is a natural process of filtering memories and filing the lesser important ones into the subconscious awareness. Everything that ever happens to us is filed and sorted in either our conscious or subconscious realities. Even when we claim to have forgotten something, we can likely remember it if we think long or hard enough. The memory is there, it’s just hidden itself away into the subconscious. No, amnesia consists of losing memories in both our conscious and subconscious realities. One can’t just sit and think long enough or hard enough to remember what it is they have forgotten. Memories are simply gone. Amnesia occurs as a result of damage to the brain from either disease or trauma. Brain-damaging diseases and traumatic events are pretty rare so that’s why it can be said that few of us have experienced amnesia in our lives.
Like it or not, most of us go through our lives learning and developing and experiencing and making memories along the way. We keep certain memories at the forefront of our minds while letting others slip back into the subconscious. Our conscious memories help guide us in our day to day living. They enable us to meet our daily needs and give structure to our personalities and relationships. Without memories we wouldn’t know who we are, who others are in relation to us, and how to meet our daily needs. Memories play an integral role in sustaining life and without them life falls apart. In fact, we NEED memories to survive in this world. Memories keep us alive and well in this world.
Our readings assigned for today remind us of the importance of our memories. The passage from Deuteronomy reminds the Israelites of how God brought them out of slavery and into “a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.” Time and time again, God brings us out of the dark times in our lives, the times of slavery and bondage of sin. Time and time again, God brings us into lands overflowing with abundance. We wouldn’t know such lands of abundance without first knowing lands of slavery and scarcity. The lands of abundance would simply be lands providing what we expect them to provide. We would become complacent in the abundance without an awareness of scarcity. The passage serves to remind us of God’s gracious generosity in our times of need. God provides even when we are unable to provide for ourselves. God provides even when we are undeserving. We have a good and gracious God indeed!
The passage also reminds us not to forget to honor our good and gracious God. It reads, “take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today.” We honor our God and all that He provides by remembering to keep His commandments, ordinances, and statutes. God continues to remember us so we should, in turn, continue to remember Him. We remember Him by obeying and serving Him. The passage also cautions that we are fools to believe the wealth we find ourselves in have been earned by our own hand. It reads, “Do not say to yourself, ‘my power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’” God so graciously gives us all that we need to flourish but also the ability to get what we need to flourish. God doesn’t just give us the proverbial fish, God also teaches us how to fish. Everything we have, including our abilities, are gifts from God.
We remember our good and gracious God not only by keeping His commandments, ordinances, and statutes but also by lifting up our praise and thanksgiving as David does in today’s psalm. David remembered to keep God’s commandments, ordinances, and statutes and God blessed him with a keen awareness of all that God provides. David sings, “You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, and hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.” What a keen awareness of God’s graciousness and all that He provides! What a blessing to know and see how good God is to us! God’s commandments, ordinances, and statutes help us to know and see as David saw. We, too, can experience the fullness of God’s grace and mercy when we remember to keep His commandments, ordinances, and statutes.
The passage from Luke tells the story of a leper who was cured and remembered to give proper thanks and praise. Yes, we ought to offer God our praise and thanksgiving when we are freed from that which enslaves us. But not all of us do. Just as the other nine lepers forget give thanks for their healing, most of us forget to give thanks for our healing. God gives graciously and selflessly. The lepers approached Jesus and called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They didn’t do anything for Jesus. They didn’t even try and convince Jesus of their worthiness for his healing. They simply asked for mercy in their time of sorrow. And Jesus gave it to them for nothing in return. Luke tells us Jesus said to them, “’Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean.” Simple as that; they asked and they received. That is how God gives. Simply ask and you will receive. One would think that more than one of the ten lepers would have had the decency to remember to thank Jesus for such a gracious gift! But that is not what we hear from Luke. Instead, we hear that only one turns back, “praising God with a loud voice,” prostrating himself at Jesus’ feet and thanking him. Jesus was initially confused but then gives the thoughtful leper an additional blessing: “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Jesus knew this leper and this leper knew Jesus. What a blessing to know and be known! So it is when we thank God for all the blessings in our lives. God neither expects nor demands our gratitude for all that He gives us. God gives selflessly. God gives to be in relationship with us. God gives because God loves us so very much. God gives because it is His nature. When we remember to give thanks as the leper remembered, we let God know we want to be in relationship with Him. We want to be known by Him. We express in our giving thanks that we love and honor God just as God loves and honors us.
We have come together this evening remembering to give thanks. We remember the struggles we went through in the last year and how God so graciously gave to us in our times of need. We remember how we kept God’s commandments, ordinances, and statutes and how in doing so we were rewarded with deep awareness of God’s abundant mercy. In keeping His commandments, ordinances, and statutes, we could see how very much God provided for us from day to day. We weren’t punished and condemned for not obeying God’s order. God not only gives us fish but teaches us how to fish. God’s laws teach us how to fish. They, too, are gifts from God just as good land, good family, good labor, and good food are.
As we gather with loved ones this week, let us be sure to remember all that God has blessed us with in the last year. Most of us are not amnesiacs–we can remember all the blessings we have received since last Thanksgiving if we think long and hard enough. Even if it was a particularly harsh year for some of us, we can give thanks and praise to God for his commandments, ordinances, and statutes. Without them, our world would be a very different place filled with fear and pain and struggle. Our memories sustain us and enable us to do great things in the present and in the future. This Thanksgiving, let us give thanks for our memories and how we are blessed to remember.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.