Cultivating Thankful Hearts, Thanksgiving Service 2016

Fertile Lutheran
Thanksgiving Service
November 23, 2016
Text: Luke 17:11-19
Cultivating Thankful Hearts
Video- to some, an ordinary day- nothing special about it to be thankful for. But through the eyes
of a heart that has been carefully cultivated to be thankful, there was much to be thankful for.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances.” Pray

Begin by reading the story of the ten lepers from Luke 17:11-19- page 850.

Ten men suffering from a disease that not only ate away at their bodies, but ate away at their self-
worth and joy for living as well. They were outcasts- feared by society to the extent that they
were forced to live outside the city and required to shout: “unclean” when someone came close.
But one day they met Jesus- a man they had heard much about who was said to be not only kind
and merciful, but able to heal. And so they called out to Him from distance- have mercy on us!
Jesus answered by telling to do something as He so often does in our lives saying: “go show
yourselves to the high priest.” And in their obedience, they were healed- cleansed of the awful
disease and given a second chance in life- all of them- and yet we are told that only one went
back to thank Jesus. We are told nothing more of the nine-only of the one who came back to
thank Jesus.

Why didn’t they all come back to thank Jesus? It couldn’t have been because they were
indifferent to what had just happened. All of them had to have been ecstatic with joy. It was life-
changing. So why didn’t they return to thank the giver? I think it might have been because for all
those years, living in despair, they had become self-centered-self-absorbed, selfish people- until
they had come to the point of being unable to see anything good in life, and only able to think of
themselves victims. That day, their bodies may have been healed, but their hearts had not.

But one came back- what made him different? What moved his heart to fall at the feet of Jesus in
thanksgiving? Perhaps it was because he had been living a life of thankfulness all along, despite
his disease-was thankful he was still alive, thankful to see the beauty of the sunrise of a new day-
never giving up the hope of better days despite the dire circumstances while the other nine could
only see sickness and rejection. Being thankful does not depend on circumstances. It depends
rather on a heart that has been cultivated and trained to see the blessings all around us and giving
heartfelt thanks to the giver.

Being thankful does not just happen- it takes an intentional choice. For a thankful heart to grow,
it needs cultivation. Living in rural America, we all know what it means to cultivate a garden or a
field of corn. Cultivation begins with preparing a good seed bed for a good soil/seed contact that
will promote good emergence and growth. Secondly, we cultivate to kill weeds that, if left to
grow uncontrollably, will eventually choke out the life of the seed.
Writing to the church in Thessalonica, Paul said this: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give
thanks in all circumstances.”

A thankful heart begins with prayer- conversing with the giver of every good and perfect gift-
asking God to prepare our hearts to be a place where a life of thankfulness can grow- and then
reveal to us any sin of resentment, pride, envy, or entitlement that will choke the life out of a
thankful heart.

“Rejoice always”. Someone once said: “contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but
the realization of what you already have.” Contentment is the fertile soil that has been cultivated
with care where a thankful heart that rejoices in what we already have can grow and flourish. I
don’t think you can truly rejoice without first being content.

Writing to the Philippians, the apostle Paul confessed: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to
be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I
have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in
him who strengthens me.”

Don’t feel like rejoicing? Overwhelmed with the demands and stress of life that you have a hard
time seeing anything to be thankful for? The bible doesn’t say anything about waiting for
circumstances to improve or change. The bible simple says- “rejoice always, pray constantly, and
give thanks in all circumstances- for that is our true worship- trusting God in all circumstances.
Begin by turning our hearts to God and be honest with Him. Pour out your heart to Him. Then
thank Him for listening to you. Thank Him for His grace. Thank him for his love that never ends.
Thank Him that he didn’t wait for us to change-before dying on the cross in our place but
willingly did it while we were yet sinners.

The year was 1636. Europe was in the middle of what history books call: “The Thirty-Year’s
War.” During that time was a pastor by the name of Martin Rinkart whose life and congregation
were experiencing economic disaster and wide-spread death because of the war. It was said that
during that time period, Pastor Rinkart had buried up to five thousand of his members in one
year- averaging fifteen a day. I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine the temptation to give in to
despair.

It was in the middle of all of that heartbreak, with the sounds of people crying in the streets heard
coming in through his window, that Pastor Rinkart sat down at his desk and wrote a song for his
children to be used as a table grace. This is what he wrote:
Now thank we all our God- with hearts and hands and voices.
Who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices.
Who from our mother’s arms, hath led us on our way-
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
I encourage you to take a pen or pencil and write on the “thank you card” something you are
thankful for and put it in the offering plate by faith in worship to God. Pray.

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