THOSE MAGIC WORDS
(Article for the 10/30/2013issue of The Seward County Independent)
By The Rev. Dr. Daniel K. Schroeder,
Pastor of Mighty Fortress Ev.LutheranChurch
“What’s the magic word?” I can remember my mother saying that to me when I was young. When she said that, it meant one of two things: either “please,” or “thank you.” That was how my mother taught me etiquette, and it is something that I’ve never forgotten.
As the calendar turns to November, we all start to think about Thanksgiving, which this year falls on November 28th. The things that automatically come to mind are turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, etc. Many people think of watching football. Lots of people will be traveling as families get together to celebrate the holiday.
This all sounds well and good; however, there are a lot of things that tend to overshadow the spirit of the day. For example, one gentleman bitterly complained about having to go to his in-laws home because his mother-in-law would physically remove the television from the house before the guests arrived. She felt people were just supposed to visit at Thanksgiving, and watching football was not a “proper” family activity. Unfortunately, the visiting usually turned into bickering and arguing. So for this gentleman, Thanksgiving was more of a prison sentence instead of a time to give thanks and be grateful. How sad.
In the Bible, Jesus talks about giving thanks in Luke 17:11-19. Jesus encounters ten men that had the dreaded disease of leprosy. They knew that Jesus could heal them, so they plead with him: “Jesus, have mercy upon us!”
As they were going along the road, they were healed. Jesus worked a miracle in their lives! They were all very pleased with what Jesus had done for them. However, only one man thought it was important enough to go back to Jesus and thank him for what he had done. Jesus asks, “Weren’t ten men made clean? Where are the other nine?”
Considering the miracle, the other nine had a lot of things going on in their mind. They had family and friends to tell. They would have been very excited! But with all of the excitement, they overlooked the most important thing of all. They forgot to give thanks to the one who healed them, the one that was responsible for all this joy and excitement!
I mentioned before that my mother taught me to use “those magic words.” Any time someone gave me a gift, my mother made sure that I thanked them properly. But I don’t think this lesson could have been demonstrated any better than what I saw as my mother neared the end of her earthly life.
When my mother was in hospital, she would always pleasantly thank the nurses, the orderlies, the techs, and even the housekeepers when they emptied her wastebasket. Sometimes what they had to do to her wasn’t pleasant for her; but she still thanked them anyway.
Over the last several years, my mother had a lot of caregivers for various things, and she was always ready with a “thank you.” The candy dish was sitting on the table, and she would say, “Thank you for your help; now please help yourself to a piece of candy.” It wasn’t much, but I know it meant a lot to those looking after her.
When the nine lepers didn’t return to thank Jesus for what he had done, he didn’t reverse the miracle. The nine lepers remained healed just like the one who did return to Jesus to thank him. God’s blessings weren’t contingent upon how thankful they were; he loved them just the same. Even so, Jesus lets us know that when we say “thank you” to him, he does appreciate it. And we certainly have a lot for which we can be thankful.
So think about what actually happens. Mother is all stressed out with meal preparations, and getting the house cleaned, and a thousand other things that completely block out the real meaning of Thanksgiving. Mother-in-law is more worried about making people act the way she thinks they should, when all she actually does is make people resentful and unthankful. And dad’s attitude is anything but grateful.
You can plug any person or situation into this story that you want to. I find it very sad indeed when attending church is pushed aside at Thanksgiving simply because people are “too busy” or other things seem more important. We become like the nine lepers who have been richly blessed by God, but we can’t be bothered to take this special time once a year to say a heartfelt “thank you” to God.
The hymnwriter says, “Forgive us Lord for shallow thankfulness,” because we’ve all been in that same boat in one way or another. But Jesus loves and forgives us for all of this, and blesses us all the more. He promises us that we are forgiven through faith in Jesus our Saviour, and that he has an eternal mansion in heaven awaiting us. Regardless of how thankful or thankless we are, Jesus will never take that promise away from us. And for this, we certainly owe him our thanks and gratitude.
My mother’s lesson in saying “thank you” really hit home a couple days before she passed away. I did some small task for her; what it was, I don’t remember. But with her weak and raspy voice, she turned and looked at me and said “thank you.”
So whatever things may arise to make you lose focus on this day, look beyond to the blessings God has given you. Eat your meal at a restaurant if the preparations are too much. If you can, stay home and avoid those situations that cause you strife. Focus yourself on God who has blessed you beyond your wildest expectations. Think of Jesus who died for you and who has forgiven your sins. Take time to say, “Thank you Jesus!”