9 September 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Luke 17:11-19
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Most Lutherans are familiar with the old motto associated with the reformation: “Sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura,” – Latin for “By grace alone, through faith alone, according to Scripture alone.” This describes how we are saved by God, how we have access to Him, and how He reveals this reality to us. It is not through our works, through our worthiness, and not according to human reason.
“Sola fide” – through faith alone – is controversial to this very day. How does faith work? What is the nature of faith? How much of our faith is really Christ’s faith at work in us?
In fact, the Church often speaks of the “mystery of faith.” We don’t understand it. We can’t put it under a microscope. We are not able to measure it. A computer cannot analyze it.
Our Lord teaches quite often about faith. He uses metaphors and stories and parables and illustrations. But today, dear friends, the Lord does not use any figure of speech, but speaks to us plainly. He uses a real-life incident as an object lesson about faith. And today, the Lord Jesus links faith to something else: gratitude.
“Rise, and go your way,” He tells the grateful Samaritan former-leper whom He has healed, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”
We often hear the Lord speak these very words to people who have received a miraculous healing. Salvation is, after all, sola fide – through faith alone. Apart from faith, we have nothing. But with faith, there is power – even the ability to move mountains. And thus we pray with the father of another person the Lord once healed: “I believe, help my unbelief.”
But notice today how the Lord links faith, that is, belief, to something else, something that demonstrates faith: gratitude. “Then one of them” whom Jesus had cured of leprosy, “when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.”
“Giving Him thanks.”
Jesus was moved by this display of faith. He was also distressed that the others who had been healed were not there right along with this “foreigner” to give thanks to Jesus where Jesus is to be found. “Were not ten cleansed?” our Blessed Lord asks. “Where are the nine?”
“Where are the nine?”
I know there is a lot of distress in this congregation because there are so few here with us. Christian churches all across the country are finding the ranks thinning , as the older parishioners become unable to attend services and the very old reach the end of their span of days in this vale of tears. By contrast, the younger generations of Americans are like “the nine” – they are those whom Jesus has cleansed by Holy Baptism, and yet they choose not to return to where Jesus is to be found to give thanks to Him.
It makes us concerned for the future of our churches, and it fills us with anxiety for the future of our country. We have become a “people among the nine,” ungrateful to our crucified Lord who has cleansed us with Holy Baptism and with the very blood of the Lamb. And as much as it grieves us, we can only imagine how much it grieves our dear Lord, who suffered unspeakable agony on the cross for each and every person on the planet, only to be rejected by these same people for whom He died: especially all the baptized and confirmed who, week in and week out, gather with the nine instead of turning back to praise God in a loud voice.
For sola fide is linked to sola gratia – by grace alone. We are saved by the Lord’s kindness, His mercy, His willingness to go to the cross, His forgiveness, His sacrifice: the blood and water from His side, His passion and death, His body and blood given and shed for you! And grace, that is “gratia” is closely linked with “gratitude.” For when one is shown a grace, one is grateful. It is a recognition of grace. It is a sign of belief. It is faith!
In other words, the grateful Samaritan gives thanks out of the faith in his heart, the very faith that has made him well. He has faith because he has received grace. For what else is there to do when we have been rescued from death but to thank our Savior and offer our life as a thank offering to the One who offered Himself as a sin offering for us?
And this gratitude, dear friends, is not limited to once a week for a church service. The Lord showers His grace upon us every day, every hour, every minute, and every second. We are constantly being bombarded with His grace, and thus it is our duty to “thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”
And so, dear friends, let us ever be grateful. Let us never take the Lord’s grace for granted. Let us never hold the Scriptures in contempt. Let us never be indifferent to preaching and His Word. Let us always hold the Lord’s Supper to be the most important thing in our very lives. For in being present where Jesus is, we can indeed praise Him “with a loud voice.” We can fall on our faces before Him, “giving Him thanks.”
Sola gratia. Sola fide. Sola Scriptura. We are saved by grace, through faith, as revealed in Scripture. There is no other way, no other option, no other requirement. And for this we are grateful beyond measure.
In addition, the Reformation fathers spoke of “solus Christus.” For it is only Christ who carries out this saving work. It is only Christ whom we thank, only Christ whom we praise with a loud voice, only Christ in whom we place our faith. In gratitude for His healing mercy to us, dear brothers and sisters, let us also proclaim with the Church: “soli Deo Gloria” – to our God alone be all glory, now and forever. Amen.
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In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.