The Living Bird is Let Loose

 

“And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests.  The priest shall examine the sore on the skin of the body; and if the hair on the sore has turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore.

The above quote is the opening to The Law Concerning Leprosy as recorded in Leviticus 13.

Leprosy: Chronic skin-disease characterized by ulcerous eruptions and successive desquainations of dead skin.

Jewish Encyclopedia

~~~

In Luke’s gospel account, chapter 17 vs. 11-19, we learn of ten lepers who plead for mercy (“Have pity on us!”) at a distance from the crowd. Keeping a distance from others was in keeping with the law proscribed in Leviticus 13. Any leper who was examined after several specified intervals and then declared unclean was isolated, sent to the outskirts of a city. The “unclean” would be required to yell “Unclean!” to any passersby.

Most of us know from a Sunday School lesson what happens in Luke’s gospel account: ten lepers are completely healed by Jesus. The ten are sent by Jesus, in keeping with the Law, to a priest for examination. Only one of the lepers returns to give thanks to Jesus.

The_Healing_of_Ten_Lepers_(Guérison_de_dix_lépreux)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall

The Healing of Ten Lepers by James Tissot

“Is it really the case that the only one who had the decency to give God the glory was this foreigner?”

The healing occurs as Jesus passes along the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee on his way to Jerusalem. The formerly leprous foreigner, and not the nine formerly leprous Israelites, is the one who returns to Jesus to give thanks. Like the Samaritan women who would gladly eat the crumbs under the master’s table, this foreigner knew that Israel’s God was different from all other gods. How different, this foreigner would come to find out. The difference would make his skin tingle.

Jesus made it clear to his disciples that his mission on earth, his vocation, was to his covenant people, the Jews. The Jews were the people God chose to bring light to the nations. But the Jews failed in their vocation. Rebellion, idolatry, stiff necked obstinacy, you name it. The people resisted their calling even after witnessing the extraordinary events of the Exodus – the Plagues, the Red sea dividing, the cloud by day, fire by night, manna on the ground in the morning and water flowing from a rock. The Covenant people resisted their calling even when given a tutor-personal words from God-to keep themselves from sin and sickness and to bring healing to the nations.

One leper returned to give, “God the glory.” Did those hearing Jesus words to this foreigner think about their vocation? Did God’s covenant people, Israel, presume a right to be an entitled people of God’s goodness. Were God’s people like the nine newly restored lepers with a focus on themselves? (Imagine a people focused on a right to healthcare.)

As one can see, the ten-leper account is an analog of the Israel’s history through the centuries. Leprosy is an analog for sin. Sin is that chronic soul-disease characterized by ulcerous eruptions of wickedness and successive offenses and sins of the walking dead.

Early on, Israel was told to eradicate idols from their lives. They were to be a separate and distinct people from the nations around them. When Israel became like other nations and chose to believe that God is not all that He was proclaimed to be, God sent prophets.

The prophet Isaiah, in the presence of God, declared as “the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” -Isaiah 6:5

In God’s presence, Isaiah was made aware of his and Israel’s’ condition. Isaiah would prophecy against Israel-the Northern Kingdom. Corporately, Israel was rich and prosperous under the rule of Jereboam. But individually, Israel was very corrupt. Israel would be expelled from home. By 621 B.C. Israel would be conquered and carried into captivity by the Assyrians.

In exile, Israel pleaded for mercy (“Have pity on us!”).

 

Let’s return to the ten lepers. After healing them Jesus tells them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

The following quote is The Ritual for Cleansing Healed Lepers as recorded in Leviticus 14:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest.  And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall examine him; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper, then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop.  And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water.  As for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water.  And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field. He who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean. After that he shall come into the camp, and shall stay outside his tent seven days. But on the seventh day he shall shave all the hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows—all his hair he shall shave off. He shall wash his clothes and wash his body in water, and he shall be clean…

“Then the priest shall offer the sin offering, and make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. Afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.”

Do you see any analogs in the above passage? What is it about the two birds? One is killed and the other set free. And, what about that earthen vessel in which one bird is killed?

 

In Leviticus 13, the priests were required to check the skin of the individual who was observed to have an ulcerous skin condition. The priest did this over several prescribed intervals. Each time the priest would examine the individual to determine if…

“If, after the scales of leprosy have spread over nearly the whole body, a bleeding and scaleless ulcer (miḥyah) is observed, the subject is unclean. Similarly, if the scales, having covered almost the whole body, fall off in one place and uncover an old bleeding ulcer, the subject is unclean.”Jewish Encyclopedia

It is interesting to note that in the next verses following the account of the lepers, Luke 17 vs. 20-21, that Jesus refers to what is observed to answer the Pharisees question, a question which was on every Jew’s mind. He reminds them of what you can see with Kingdom eyes:

“The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming.

“God’s Kingdom,” replied Jesus isn’t the sort of thing you can watch for and see coming. People won’t say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or “Look, over there!” No: God’s kingdom is within your grasp.”

In giving the lepers a renewed humanity and by restoring them to their communities and Synagogues from exile Jesus was doing the work of the Kingdom on earth. He hoped the nine of Israel (and the crowd) would have grasped this. We are told that the only one to “give God the glory” was the foreigner. Do you think he kneeled and grasped Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving?

He’s Been Faithful – That is Why I Give Thanks Today

 

God’s faithfulness to me and his past, present and future covenantal faithfulness to all of his creation…this song says it all…

 

The Injustice of Ungratefulness

Setting 1:

The Healing of Ten Lepers by James Tissot

The Healing of Ten Lepers by James Tissot

You’re a leper, one of ten who live quarantined outside the city. You hear of a miracle worker. You leave your colony and head for the crowd.

The crowd seeing you parts quickly, gasping. No one wants to be near you. But you are focused to where Jesus is standing.

Before Jesus you plead for a mercy healing. “Teacher, please.” You are immediately healed. Utterly healed.

ten lepers

You are told “Go, show yourselves to the priests” so that they may examine you before you return to society and its center, the synagogue. You go and are subsequently released back into the world you had once known.

Nine of your healed friends return home for Thanksgiving dinner and to watch a soccer match in their newly restored bodies with their newly restored relationships. But you, you are too excited to eat or to drink or to sleep. You can’t do anything until you say “thank you” to the One who made your flesh whole.

You find Him and throw yourself before the Word made flesh. You pour out your words of thanksgiving at his feet.

You acknowledge your Indebtedness and the Other. You do this, not in kind, but in thought and deed.

“The external act is an expression of an inner assent: the other is acknowledged and confirmed in what is due him (Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues, (emphasis added))

Acknowledging the other and confirming what they have done for you is the justice of Thanksgiving.

The nine lepers who decided to ignore the Other and who calculated no indebtedness committed the injustice of ungratefulness. Their temporal well-being was all that mattered.

Setting 2:

Joseph, the 11th of Jacob’s 12 sons and Rachel’s firstborn, received a beautiful garment from his father – a token of a father’s love. Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons.  Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors

Jacob’s gift, perhaps, was in anticipation of the promise of the Abrahamic covenant being fulfilled through his blood line. But, the brothers didn’t care about the reason. Jacob’s gift to Joseph and none for them was for them “inequality.” Their jealousy turned into the injustice of ungratefulness.

Though the older brothers all anticipated some fraction of a vast inheritance they quickly became envious of Joseph, of this material gift and of his spiritual gifts – Joseph could interpret dreams. You could almost taste the bitterness of their words:

“Why did Joseph, that little punk, get that gift from dad? “I never got anything like that from dad. Every day we take care of father’s land and flocks and Joseph is lying about at home or sitting on dad’s knee. “We have to eat sheep jerky and stale bread. Joseph gets fresh bread, kabobs and dates…yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.”

Pop psychology, one of the enablers of the inequality mindset, would say that father Jacob was being unfair and creating inequality. And even though Jacob was disposed to favoring Joseph more than his other sons, Jacob had every right and the prerogative to give whatever he wanted to whomever he pleased. Joseph’s brothers, already harboring expectations of their father and now creating new expectations, created the inequality in their own minds.

Joseph’s brothers should have acknowledged Joseph and their father and rejoiced with them. Instead Joseph was handed over to slave traders by his envious brothers. And…the rest of the story is found in the book of Genesis.

What? Giving thanks for what someone else has received? Isn’t that rewarding injustice? No, it is not. In God’s economy there is justice in the positive acknowledgement of the other receiving something good without making demands of or being acknowledged by the giver in return. It is the world’s zero-sum thinking that always ends in the injustice of ungratefulness.

Setting #3:

We live in a time of unprecedented well-being. We profit from new age technology, advanced medicine, online material goods access and massive individual consumption (aka Black Friday). We are overwhelmed by the multitude of choices. And around us there are fewer people living in poverty than ever before. But you wouldn’t know any of this by the constant and ubiquitous griping and whining. Such injustice of ungratefulness, though, usually occurs when the world around the grumbler is flush with good things. Expectations skyrocket during booming times.

“It can be persuasively argued that the postmodern critique of justice, like the postmodern critique of rationality, draws its pathos from the self-stultifying tendency to generate false expectations and then harbor disappointments when they fail to be fulfilled. It places impossible demands on a notion of justice, despairs over them not being met, and then declares all general notions of justice impossible and undesirable.” – Mirosalv Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation

Postmodern “justice” seeks to deconstruct Justice, from blind universal “J” to individual “I” “j’s’ and then re-packages it back into universal “J” form.

“…the liberal notion of justice: all should respect all; none should respect those who do not respect all.” – Mirosalv Volf

Bottom line “Justice”, in essence, has thus become a universal political-speak term for “someone has something that I do not have.” “I demand a debt be created that owes me something!” “I don’t care how. I want it now.”  Willy Wonk I want it now

And so, we arrive at the Sanders Claus List:

“I want world economic justice now because someone in this world has more than I do.”

“I want environmental justice now so I can feel better about the world around me while I’m in my online virtual environment texting and tweeting.”

“I want health justice now because “health insurance must be a right because Europe has health insurance coverage and I don’t.”

I want rights justice now because someone gets to be something I am not.

I want education justice now because those before me have something I do not have – education and money.

I want wage justice now because I should not have to work and merit the money like most plebeians.

I want speech justice because the use of the gift of free speech by the ‘other’ affects my Disney world. And, even though my universal justice says that individual differences are to be accounted for, the ‘other’s’ words do not account for my individual justice and is therefore unjust.”

 

These days the demand side of life is ever promoted and never the supply side of Thanksgiving. Democratic “Demand” Socialism, whether of the European or Sanders or Clinton variety, is the golden cornucopia that the many have created and now worship in their quest for their self-serving “justice”.

Such an idol breeds contempt for the other and beyond that, the tyranny of materialism and the injustice of ungratefulness.

~~~

Thankful-leper

Jesus asked:

“Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Then he said to him:

“Rise and go; your faith has saved you.”

Thanks be to God.

 

 

Added:

Thanksgiving Becomes You

Lincoln Thanksgiving

Lest history is revised as a means for present deceptions and determinations and before another angry atheist/liberal professor/fiction writer decides revisionist history is the best way to fool “We the People”, let us read the following proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln.

 A note of context: Eyewitness accounts of the Surrender at Appomattox tell us the events of the Lee-Grant surrender meeting took place at the McLean house on April 9, 1865. Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation, announced about a year and a half before that day, was made to declare a national and unifying day of Thanksgiving. (Each state had celebrated Thanksgiving on a different day.).

 The declaration also appears to be written to remind the people of this great nation that “Almighty God” had given the nation a great many blessings of which gratitude and not discontent and strife was in order. (emphasis mine)

 

 

 

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

 

By the President of the United States of America.

 

A Proclamation.

 

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence (sic), have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness (sic) of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility (sic) and Union.

 

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

 

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

 

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

 

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

 

 

President Lincoln, a Deist, never forgot that a higher and providential power, a sovereign, theistic objective morality existed enthroned above-“Almighty God.” Lincoln acknowledged the right of God to deal with mankind on His terms.

 Now, fast forward.

 Counselors, psychologists, social workers ad infinitum-the whole earthly host of remedial pacifying gurus-have diagnosed and they have declared of mankind “I’m OK, You’re OK.” Guilt, shame and a conscience are not worthy of YOU. Instead, coming out PRIDE is what you are meant for. Ergo, anyone outside the perimeter of YOUR being must be denied as existing or, at the most, nondeserving of any attention, except as it emulates YOU (e.g., the homocentricity of homosexuality). Social justice must be a reflection of YOU-love yourself (and Mother Earth) as your neighbor should love you. Facebook and Tweet your goodness (and grandiosity) for the entire world to see.

 Thanksgiving, counting your blessings and God Himself, whether as Lincoln’s distant Deist or as the Infinite/Personal God I know are now considered ‘things’ of the past.

We are told that “We must “Lean Forward and be Progressive! History got it wrong. We are smarter than that! Thanksgiving had nothing to do with God. It was a time of community, of socialism, of communism, Comrade!”

   As we approach Thanksgiving Day-my favorite national holiday along with the Fourth of July-I am constantly reminded of the extreme blessings that have been poured into my life. Both hands cannot begin to hold the cornucopia of goodness from my Lord in the land of the living.

 Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

 

Daily I am confronted by the unrest and discontent of almost everyone I meet. These people are union workers, my non-union coworkers (yes, they have a well-paying job with benefits and they complain anyway) and the abundantly blessed who are betwixt the commercialism they so publicly lambaste and so privately desire (e.g., the Occupy Wall St. tribe; see video below).

 Not many people, if you listen to the Kulture Kommentators of any media type, are grateful to be American. Instead we learn that our nation has become an ungrateful, needy, whiney people of constant griping: “meet my demands or I-will-riot-and-loot”. ”I will shut you out of my America.” “Pay homage to me and my cause or I will call you a racist, a homophobe, a rapist, a “bitter clinger”, greedy and un-American.” “I hate America therefore I am intellectually smarter than your honor roll student.” “COEXIST-at your own risk around me.”

 Our current leaders are unworthy focal points for any national horizon where thanksgiving may arise. Unlike Abraham Lincoln our leaders induce and enable ingratitude. Their own compromised and disfigured lives coupled with their “everything is political” reductionism generate universal discontent-a “bah-humbug” unrest with the current state of things. As logocentrists in their own minds, they provoke ingratitude in order to present themselves as “pursuit of happiness” purveyors, saviors of the rights of being self-supreme but always, always, as advertised recipients of their largesse as they administer the providence of almighty government.

 One last comment: Do atheists give thanks? Who do they thank? And why? For them, aren’t Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday a break from work to enjoy crass materialism, endless football and feasting? A day of hedonism? A Thus Spoke Zarathustra Day?

Is life to be understood now as one big riverboat casino with you as the captain of your own fate, the Proud Mary rollin’ down the river?

 For the atheist isn’t everything that happens and everything handed to them, whether as relative good or bad, just collectivized random events, Logical Atoms, knowledge based on sensory experience, existential relativity derivative of Darwinian evolutionary materialism? And, Thanksgiving Day, isn’t it just a form of epicurean escapism from the drudgery of a riverboat life? Perhaps atheists thank government for socialized medicine, another outcropping of materialistic atheism. Thanksgiving requires a leap of humility and that is a crevice too wide and distant from one’s self, one’s will to jump over.

 Life for me without giving thanks is a life lived avoiding God.

 I have learned that a grateful heart changes your countenance and your outlook…from facing inward to facing outward and upward. Thanksgiving becomes you.

 From the Book of Common Prayer said before The Great Thanksgiving:

 

“It is right and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”

 

More sensory experience:

 Abraham Lincoln and the “Mother of Thanksgiving

For the Beauty of…Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day.  The eponym-iest day of the year for me. I have been brining in blessings all year.  It’s time to give thanks.

Of course, I love the smell of food that wafts into memories. I love seeing all my kids all at the same time. I love the murmur of kith and kin. And then I love to go back to bed and leave the dishes for the next day.

 Every year I wake up early in anticipation of the day’s preparation. This year was no different.  I woke at 3:00 am this morning: “There must be something I have to attend to,” I told myself under a warm and indifferent comforter.

 But beyond the expectancy of joy and beyond the fact that I will tell everyone my concerns about how the mashed potatoes will fare I do remember that the day is Thanksgiving Day and that I have plenty to give thanks for. PLENTY.

 We live in a world where everywhere I turn, it seems, there is a Scrooge~like spirit of ungratefulness ~ a blatant demand for one’s “fair share” and for one’s own painful memories to be performed “LIVE” over and over again.  This ungratefulness is put onto the front burner of one’s every thought, word and deed.  And, there it simmers and then smolders and then burns down into a burn~your~eyes~and~nose~charred~and~smoking bitterness. You don’t want to ingest ungratefulness no matter how it is cooked ~ rare, medium, well-done or burnt.

 Now, if I had to capture the essence of thanksgiving into words and let those words have a voice I would choose the hymn “For The Beauty of the Earth.”  This will be the hymn sung at my funeral, but I’m not waking up early for that.

   “For The Beauty of the Earth” captures only some of what I will say for eternity.