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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. My fondness for it has nothing to do with football or food, though Ill consume plenty of each. I love Thanksgiving because its a day to count our blessings. Giving thanks is ultimately a spiritual act. Even though some years are harder than others to authentically say thanks, our blessings surround us. What can be better than to be surrounded by blessings? Thats Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is also a day where we can take a breath before the onslaught of the Christmas shopping season, excuse me, I mean the season of Advent starts. The retail world is doing all it can to interrupt Thanksgiving. Have you followed the story of the workers who are protesting that they have to work on Thanksgiving. The big boxes arent waiting this year for Black Friday to start the Christmas shopping season. Wal Mart is opening their doors at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Target, Macys, Best Buy and Kohls are opening their doors on midnight after Thanksgiving. J.C. Penny is holding out. They arent opening until 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday. Many workers are understandably upset that they dont have Thanksgiving to spend with their family and friends. One man started an on-line petition protesting Best Buys decision. It

has almost 13,000 signatures; a man from Target started a petition protesting Targets midnight opening. His petition got over 100,000 signatures. The world around us wants us to be consumed by stuff; Thanksgiving is a day to count our blessings. Its hard to do both. Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to pause, and reflect, and see the blessings that surround us. We have to be intentional about giving thanks. The world is going to do all it can to arouse the frenzy inside of us for consumption. SLIDE Noted theologian Albert Schweizer put the issue like this: Gratitude is the secret to life

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SLIDE Another noted theologian, Bart Simpson put it like this: stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.

Dear God, we paid for all this

The questions Id like us to reflect upon is this, What do we want to define us as people of Godblessings or consumption? Giving thanks is a choiceits a learned behavior that we have to practice. Thanksgiving is a day to practice this choice. With that introduction I want to encourage you to get out this brochure that is in the bulletin. In this brochure Ive included a devotion. Guess what the topic of the devotion is this week? Giving thanks. We have a place to take sermon notes. Today Im going to share a wonderful story about a person who gave thanks about thanks that I think youll want to remember. And at the end of this sermon Im going to share some specific ways that we can cultivate thanks. I think youll want to write those ways down on this brochure. You also have prayer requests. I want Thanksgiving be a day to count blessings. So Im going to give you three points today on thanks. First Im going to look at the story Angelica read and share the source of our thanks; second Im going to share a story of a role model of thanks for us; third Im going to show some very interesting scientific research that shows a correlation between giving thanks and our health. Lets look at the story. Shortly before Jesus came to Jerusalem for the final week of his earthly life he entered a village. On the outskirts of the village ten lepers approached him. Its not surprising that the lepers approached Jesus on the edge of a village. Most likely these ten lepers lived together in a lepers colony. In Jesus day if a person had leprosy they were called unclean and told to leave the village.

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You might ask, what is leprosy? Leprosy is caused by a bacterium that causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. Today its called Hansens disease. Its not common in the United States. There are only about 100 new cases of Hansens disease diagnosed in a year. It is common in parts of the world. Over 255,000 cases of Hansens disease were diagnosed worldwide in 2007. In the story the pain that these lepers experienced was much more than skin deep. The lepers suffered from the moral judgment of their community. Let me set this up. In Jesus day there were many purity laws. These laws declared who was clean and who was unclean. Being clean or unclean was more than just a description of whether a person had taken a bath. Being clean or unclean described a persons morality as the community understood it. The purity laws gave specific examples of what would cause a person to become unclean. If a person touched a corpse or certain dead animals, or ate certain animals, then a person was declared unclean. When women menstruated they were declared unclean. This was serious. When a person was declared unclean that person was declared unholy. To be unclean meant a person was declared a sinner; it meant that you were morally in the wrong. They could not approach God until they became clean again. If you were unclean and you wanted to be morally in the right again you would go through a process of purification. Sometimes a person would have to go through a waiting period that ranged from a day to several months; at the end of the time a person would go through a purification ritual and be cleansed with an agent like water, or blood, or fire. The priest of the community would determine if a person was ready to be declared clean again. These purity laws are shared in the Old Testament.

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I can understand that it can be hard to relate to laws written long ago about touching corpses or not eating certain foods. It makes no sense to our modern sensibilities to think that eating certain foods means that youve done something morally wrong. . However in the 21st century we understand judgment. Our culture has certain codes that declare whether a person is good or bad. Our culture doesnt have purity laws, instead we have unspoken understandings about morality. Our cultureespecially the mediaencourages us to point our fingers at people to declare, you are bad. It might be challenging for us to relate to purity laws, but we do understand judgment. Thats what a purity law didit placed the communitys moral judgment on a person. One of the Core Values of Chain of Lakes is acceptance. We understand this to mean that we accept people without judgment, regardless of what has happened in their lives or where they are on their faith journeys. In the last few weeks I have had many people tell me they love our new church because they have experienced this value of acceptance. We are set up to love people. It doesnt matter to us if youve done something that the culture says is wrong. It doesnt matter to us if you are going through a divorce or suffering from alcoholism or havent been to church in a long time. We accept you at Chain of Lakes where you are. Our teacher for acceptance at Chain of Lakes is Jesus. He showed it in this story. He had a special love for these lepers. These lepers were declared morally sinful because of a physical condition that they had no control over. Not only did they have to suffer from leprosy, they had to suffer from the judgment of the community. It would be like having cancer and then feeling the scorn of your friends and family because of your cancer.

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When the lepers approached Jesus they called out to him, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. Notice that the lepers didnt ask for healing, they asked for mercy. They wanted to be declared morally right. When Jesus saw the lepers he told them to go see the priest. As they went to the priest they were made clean. One more piece of background. After an unclean person went through a process of purification they went to the priest. The priest determined if the person was morally cleanthat is they were in the good graces of the community. So the lepers went to the priestand as they did they were healed. Not only were they were they physically healed, they were morally healed. Their leprosy left them and they could join the community again. These stories are why I love Jesus so much. Jesus went out of his way to love people who the culture didnt love. I want to be like him; I want our church to be like him. I want us to go out of the way to love people who our culture judges. Can I get an Amen. When one of the lepers was healed he turned back and found Jesus. The leper then bowed down at Jesus feet in an act of worship. The healed leper thanked Jesus. He realized that the source of his thanks was Jesusfully God, fully human. The leper knew that the source of his thanks was God. To cultivate thanks we have to be like the leper. We have to realize how Jesus can heal us; we have to understand that Jesus looks at all parts of us even the parts that were embarrassed to share with another personand then says, I love you. You are clean in my eyes. Our response is to get on our knees and say thank you.

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When God is the source of our thanks, then no matter what happens to us we will always be able to say thank you. Its easy to think in suburban America that the source of our thanks is ourselves. If we have a house or apartment we likeweve earned that. If we have a good job we say, I earned that job through my education. If our kids or grandkids are doing well me might thinkthey are doing well because I am a good parent or grandparent. If we have quality relationships we might think weve earned those too. The hole in this suburban logic and what sets us up for problems is what happens when these blessings are taken away. If we think that we are what we earn, then what happens when we fail. Does that mean we earn our failings? If we think that we earn our failings, then its pretty hard to say thank you. At Chain of Lakes I want us to be able to say thank you when our world is falling apart. I want us to have the type of faith that when we go through suffering, then we can look at our suffering and say thanks. I dont think this is easy at all. There were ten lepers in the story. Only one came back to Jesus to give thanks. The other ninewhat happened to them. Let me ask you this. Which leper are we in the story. Are we the leper who gave thanks because we realize the source of our thanks is God or are we the other nine who ignored what Jesus had done. First point. Lets be clear about the source of our thanks. Second point. Let me share a story of a person who is a role model for this type of thanks.

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SLIDE

Let me tell you the story of Martin Rinckart. He served as a pastor in the walled

town of Eilenburg. He wrote the words of the hymn Now Thank we All our God that were going to sing today. SLIDE Today Eilenburg is a town of about 16,000 in Germany. Marting Rinckart was born in Eilenburg. At the age of 31 Martin Rinckart was appointed to be an archdeacon or a pastor in Eilenburg. The year was 1617. Twenty years later in 1637 the plague hit Eilenburg. In that year 8,000 people died from the plague. The entire town council except three people died, a large number of school children died and many of the pastors died in Eilenburg died. At the beginning of 1637 there were four pastors in Eilenburg. One leftIm assuming that this man couldnt handle all the suffering he saw, and two others died. That left one pastor to officiate at all of the funerals. Martin Rinckart. In one year he conducted services for 4,480 people as many as 40 to 50 funerals a day. In May his own wife died. The funerals of his day were not like the funerals we celebrate. Most likely they were prayers and blessings over a body. Around 1637 the thirty years war came to Eilenburg. The thirty years war was one of the worst wars in European history. The Swedes surrounded Eilenburg and imposed a tribute of 30,000 thalers. A thaler was the currency of the day. The people of Eilenburg couldnt pay this money. Pastor Rinckart went to the Swedish camp to ask the general of the Swedish army for mercy. When the general refused Pastor Rinckart turned to the people who followed him and basically said that if they couldnt find any mercy from the general they would take refuge with God. Martin Rinckart went on his knees and prayed with such earnestness that the Swedish general significantly lowered the amount of the tribute.

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What would our attitude be if we had to bury over 4,000 people in including our spouse. On top of that what would our attitude be if our town was hit by a terrible famine. And then we had to give money to a foreign army. Its not too far to think that we would be full of bitterness and rage. If the source of our thanks was God, we could look at a terrible situation like this and says thanks. This was Martin Rinckarts attitude. He wrote the words that became the hymn, Now thank we all our God. In a world dominated by death, Martin Rinckart wrote this prayer. As I read it think of a world where youve buried 4,000 people. SLIDE Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, In whom this world rejoices; Who from our mothers arms Has blest us on our way With countless gifts of love And still is ours today. Right after the sermon were going to sing this hymn. As we sing may we reflect on Martin Rinckart. He is a model of thanks for us. If he can choose thanks, then we can too. Finally let me be practical and share some specific ways we can cultivate thanks. I believe that thanks is something we have to practice. In my research this week I came across some work done by Robert Emmons. He is a professor of psychology at UC-Davis and editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He did an interesting study. He asked a hundred adults to keep a journal. They were randomly assigned to three different groups. The people in Group A had to write down each week five things that they were happy about; the people in Group B had to write down each

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week five things that they found annoying and irritating; Group C had to write down five things that had a major impact on them. Dr. Emmons found that the people in Group Athe people who wrote down every week five things they were happy abouthad much higher levels of well-being compared to the other two groups. When people cultivated gratitude they were much happier. He found that SLIDE 1) the practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by 25 percent 2) writing in a gratitude journal can create an effect that will last six months longer 3) cultivating gratitude can bring help us sleep longer and have a better attitude about our life. Do any of us have any trouble sleeping or find ourselves being cranky. Scientific research shows that we will sleep better and have a more positive attitude if we practice thanks. None of us is too busy to give thanks. How about if we tried this. How about if the first thing we do as we awake in the morning is give thanks for the day; how about at the end of the day we give thanks to God for at least one specific thing that happened during the day; how about if at the start of the week we come to worship and give thanks for the gift of Jesus Christ to us; how about at the start of the week we write down five things about the previous week for which we can give thanks. I want to challenge us to get in the practice of giving thanks. My daughter, Hannah, has taken up the piano. She has a lesson every week. Were still teaching her the importance of practice. Shes like most kids in that she would rather go on Facebook or watch the Disney channel or listen to her IPOD than practice. As adults we all know what happens to a piano student when they dont practice. The lesson becomes their practice time. Over time if kids dont practice they will lose interest in the piano and quit. The same thing can happen in our giving thanks.

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Its my experience that over time if we cultivate thanks we develop a natural orientation of thanks. Giving thanks will be as natural to us as breathing. When something bad inevitably happens to us we wont be brought down; instead well look for the parts of the incidence for which we are thankful. We wont be crabby or irritable people; instead well be people full of grace and gratitude. Who do you want to bethe leper who returned and gave thanks, or the other nine who said nothing. On this Thanksgiving, lets cultivate thanks.