The hopeless condition of a throwaway person…are we the thankful people for all Christ has done for us? Join us for Part I of our Thanksgiving Series.
Abraham Lincoln 1863, October 3. 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.
INTRODUCTION: Welcome again to the broadcast. This is Michael Easley and I’m delighted that you’ve joined us for the broadcast. Thanksgiving is without a doubt Cindy’s and mine favorite holiday. I think we like it, number one because we’re not scurrying around buying presents for all kinds of people and standing in line and spending more money than we want to spend, but we’re simply assembling some great food and inviting some great people to enjoy one another’s company, to be thankful for all the blessings, all the privileges that we have.
Again, I don’t know about your home, and your background, but Thanksgiving is a rich time for us and we have a number of Easley traditions we do that you’ll hear about a little bit in our broadcast. One of the things that I do and you know if you listen to me; you know I’m weird; I’m an odd person. I actually like to go back and read some of our founding Fathers; not necessarily a bookish person, but I love to go back and see what did Lincoln say, for example about Thanksgiving? What were the Founding Fathers,and our former presidents who often write proclamations for each holiday? Lincoln, of course in a time when our country was war torn internally, brother fighting brother, Americans fighting Americans over the horrific issue of slavery, the abolition of slavery and the atrocities of a country fighting within itself and the blood that was spilt and shed during those horrible years. Lincoln,without a doubt, a heroic president, who suffered greatly to try to lead this ambling country during that time. But beyond our thankfulness as a nation, if you’re like me you look at things, I’m not always thankful. You get discouraged. The nation is not what it once was. Nostalgia can be deceiving at times, but we do long for a day perhaps when things were different, when our country was less divisive, where we were more agreed as a nation, as a people, and especially as a people of faith, a people who believe in Christ. Well there are revisionists who are always going to try and change history; that’s a fact that we live in a culture that will always fight against what was once taught, whether it was textbooks or the political correct police, all the issues that we are indoctrinated by again and again and again.
What about the believer? We live in a context, we live in a world that is fallen, broken, sinful and run by broken and sinful people. How do we press on? How do we think about not just our country as being thankful people, but as being a believer in Jesus Christ?
This will be a two part message as we think about Thanksgiving. A little bit from an American viewpoint. More importantly from a Biblical lens. We’ll hear from Dr. Luke in Chapter 17, about the one leper who comes back and we’ll look at his thankfulness in comparison and contrast to those who are absent who have nothing to say. And the lesson will be obvious. Are we the one that come back? Are we the thankful people for all Christ has done for us?
Let’s join the program in progress.
Well Thanksgiving approaches and Cindy and I, it’s our favorite holiday for a lot of reasons. One because there’s not all the craziness of Christmas and presents and all that goes on with that. It’s just a meal and it’s with family. We try to have a household. We’ve been known to have thirty-some people in our home over Thanksgiving. When we just had the first two girls, when Hannah and Jessie, our only children at the time in Texas, we’d always invite the highways and byways people we called them; people that didn’t have a home or maybe single; women from the Wycliffe center. We lived in Texas near Wycliffe headquarters and a lot of those women had served twenty, thirty years overseas and were single and came back to retire in the SIL headquarters of Wycliffe. So we’d invite them over and it started a tradition. So we had all these people at our home and they’d come over and we had a tiny home and we’d cook food and we’d watch the football game and kind of drool half awake, half watching the game. So they were still there so we’d pull out leftovers, and say, “Let’s have sandwiches.” So they’d eat dinner. Then about ten o’clock I’m flossing my teeth saying, “Honey, you know it’s time for these people to go home.” Well it started a tradition and about three or four years later, Hannah who was under seven or so said, “You know I just want to have a Thanksgiving with just our family.” We said, “Ok.” So we did the turkey and all that and it was the four of us and we ate dinner and twenty minutes later it was over. She said, “This is really boring.” So ever since then we’ve had the big group we’ve always loved it and it’s been a great thing we enjoy and we look forward to it each year.
There’s certain comfort foods that you kind of have to have for it to be Thanksgiving. For example, I have to have giblet gravy. Now I’m in the south now. I’m among friends so some of you know what giblet gravy is. Right? You got to have giblet gravy and Cindy has her gravy because she doesn’t like all the organ meat in there that I do. How many white meat fans do we have? The healthy ones. How many dark meat fans? Yeah, the Godly ones. How many of you have cornbread stuffing? It’s got to be cornbread base stuffing. The rest of you use what? Pepperidge Farm, you know? How many like Pumpkin Pie? How many like pecan pie? How many have to have both for Thanksgiving? You put whip cream on both of them. Extra whip cream. That’s me to. What about cranberry sauce that comes out of the can? You kind of got to work it out. It’s like this gelatinous glob from Mars; cut it with a knife; it doesn’t change; you can play catch with the stuff. The rest make the cranberry relish, the real stuff. Yes! The Godly people in the room. You got to put the orange rind, you know and food processor, pecans, and some of that stuff that burns in there. So everybody has this thing. We had friends in Texas and I never heard this before or since but this family came home because she made Thanksgiving noodles. Who ever heard of such a thing? Thanksgiving noodles! Homemade…where does this come from? Like Albania or something? I mean come on. Noodles at Thanksgiving time. Pilgrims didn’t know how to make noodles. Beyond comfort food, you have comfort football. So we have comfort food, comfort football. I’m the .01% of the population that actually goes back and I read William Bradford’s First Proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1623. I’ve read everyone I can find since then over the years and I’m always drawn back to Lincoln. Do you know that Thanksgiving was not ratified until 1941 in our country as a national ongoing holiday? Part of that was kind of hit and miss depending. Most presidents, accepting a couple, Jefferson wouldn’t do it because he felt the Proclamation was too kingly, too much like the monarch from which we were escaping when he left England. So he wouldn’t do it, but Lincoln’s in 1863 is probably the most poignant and best known. The backstory however is not often known, but an obscure woman, by the name of Susan Hale, who was the editor of a publication called Godey’s Ladies Book and she also wrote a little well known poem called Mary had a Little Lamb. Well she pestered Lincoln and wrote him letters appealing to him to ensconce Thanksgiving to make a proclamation that it would be a permanent holiday. I won’t read you the whole proclamation but just a couple of paragraphs of Abraham Lincoln.1863 October 3. No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand work out these great things. There are the gracious gifts of the most high God who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. He continues: I do therefore invite the fellow citizens in every part of the United States, also those who are at sea, those who are sojourning in foreign lands; those to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as Thanksgiving Day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. I recommend to them that while offering up ascriptions justly due Him for such singular deliverances and blessings that they also with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.
What president in modern times would use the words “our national perverseness and disobedience?” Can you envision any of them? Come into His tender care, all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers, and the lamentable civil strife. What’s a civil strife?1863, the Civil War which we are unavoidably engaged and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes. Listen to that again. Interposition, ask God to intervene, the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it as soon as may be consistent with divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union. Can you imagine any politician writing for me like that in the last two or three decades? Don’t let the revisionist teach you history. Go back and read history for yourself. Don’t let your history teacher in junior high, high school, college tell you otherwise. Go back and read what they wrote, not what the teacher says they wrote. Doesn’t matter if you think these men are Christian or Judeo Christian or Deists. These people were more evangelical than most evangelicals are today. So we have in my humble opinion, which you can certainly disagree with it’s a free country, we have a lot to be thankful for. Comfort food and comfort football and uncomfortable proclamations, but if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ you have far, far, far, far more to be thankful for than anything. If you trusted in Christ and Christ alone for your salvation; you put your trust in Him; what He did for you on the cross to pay for your sins, to die in your place instead of you on your behalf; to take the full penalty of your condemnation on Himself to die in your place; to live die, be buried and be resurrected; and to offer a free salvation to you and to me. Any and all and put their trust in Christ, and Christ alone are given a free gift of eternal life. If you put your trust in Christ, you and I have more reason to be thankful than anything else on the globe. If we remember it, remind ourselves of it, and we don’t forget what He’s done.
Turn in your Bibles to Luke chapter 17, vs 11. A familiar story, probably a very familiar story, but extraordinary illustration of Thanksgiving that I hope if you know the story well you will know it better and it might have a little more meaning as we think about this next few days in front of us and the holiday we so enjoy. Luke 17 vs 11. While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee as He entered a village, ten leprous men stood at a distance, met Him. They raised their voices saying, “Jesus, Master have mercy on us.”
PRAYER: Father, as we look at a familiar story of an extraordinary work of God through your Son, and the extraordinary change of one person’s life, and we evaluate our own thankfulness and gratitude that we have for what you’ve done. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Number one: The hopeless condition of a throw away person. The hopeless condition of a throw away person. In Luke Chapter 17, we read this plea for mercy from ten leprous men. Now, a couple of things. Number one: How did they know,Jesus, this Master could do these things? The message has traveled quickly in the ancient world. They didn’t have Twitter or iPhones, or 3G or 4G, or 1G, they didn’t have anything like that. How did this information travel so quickly by a rumor and word of mouth? 1993, I went to Nigeria invited by a national from Nigeria, arduous journey to get there and drove hours and hours in this old beater car. As we drove into this village of some fifty Nigerians, about half muslim, half Christian, as we pulled into the driveway-road, not a driveway but a gullied road. No communication. No cellphones. Nothing. About two or three hundred women descended on the car and started singing a Nigerian house of chant that had two English words, “Welcome, Michael, welcome.” We drove into the village and we stopped at a food area where the vendors would cook food and within moments this entire five thousand plus compound knew a baturi had come into the village: a white man, and it wasn’t part of a group or an organization, just a friend of part of their village. In moments! So information can travel very fast without technology. So these lepers have heard about this Jesus, that He’s healed people, that He’s cured people, that He’s multiplied loaves and fish, that He can walk on water. They’ve heard these stories. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
Levitical law, Chapter 13 of Leviticus, 14 parts of 15. Numbers Chapter 5, if you want to read about the laws of leprosy. I wouldn’t want to read it before lunch, but if you want to read it, it will give you some interesting details about the disease. We don’t know precisely what leprosy in the ancient world was. It was probably not the Hansen’s disease leprosy that we still see today, in some parts of the world, even in America. But what we do know is Levitical law distinguish between clean and unclean. They went into the Canaanite country and if a brick had leprosy in a house the Levitical Priest was brought into inspect it. Early home inspection. Early black mold. They took the blocks out and if it grew back, they tore the house down. They had to take the stones outside the city to an unclean place and dump them there. If you had a lesion, a hair, this type of thing on your arm, on part of your body, the priest inspected it; if he declared you leprous, you were unclean and out of the village. They did not understand viral or bacterial transmission in the ancient world. But they understood clean and unclean that God had given the Levitical Priest this law. If you’re unclean, you’re outside the camp. Now the interesting part about the miracle that we’re going to read is: the disease is not just a picture of this leprous throw away person. The disease is an illustration of our sin condition. We all are spiritually lepers. Every disease, every blindness, every deafness, every lame person, every person who dies is an illustration of our sin. When Christ comes back and He comes in the first century and He exercises miracles over these diseases, He didn’t just come to heal diseases, He came to heal the disease. So the plight cannot be missed. We are all spiritual lepers. We’re all throw away people. The only difference is visibility. You can see the disease of leprosy on a person’s skin, but you can’t see the disease of sin on our heart, mind, and soul, and body. So the leper was illustrative, that we’re all leprous people, we’re all unclean outside of a relationship with God, outside of a relationship with God’s people. What do we see calling out for mercy? By the way there’ll be a time in your life when all the props are going to be knocked out and you’re going to cry for mercy. It’s very maddening to think about living with a disease, cancer, pain, Lupus, MS, and that your life is one that is crying out for mercy, but it is what the penitent sinner does. We’re all spiritual lepers and sometimes it’s desperate. Vs. 17, when Jesus saw them, He said, “Go and show yourself to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Kathartikos, cleansed. We get the English word, catharsis. (this is a transliteration of a Greek word into English).
Number one: The hopeless condition of throw away people of which we all are.
Number two: The compassion of Jesus. Vs 14. There’s no record of hesitation. There’s no record of discussion with them, other than this one injunction, “Go, and show yourself to the priest.” That’s it. Now from Leviticus 13 and Leviticus 14 and following, the priest is the one we might say is the health inspector. He’s the one that is going to inspect the home or the person’s body, but the Levitical law did not say, Go to the priest. If you had leprosy in the home or had it, you invited the priest to come to you. The only time you went to the priest is when you were healed. So Jesus is giving them a command that is out of step with their disease and that’s where the miracle hits the audience of the first century. A leper is going to go show himself to the priest as they’re going to heal because if you have leprosy you don’t go show yourself to the priest, you’re already unclean outside the camp of people and treated as a pariah in the refuse of humanity. Go show yourself to the priest. In the Levitical Law, the only time you went was when you were cured. Now their leprous skin is now pink and healthy and whatever deformity is gone, the lesions are removed. You see, when you’re a leper your disease isolates you from community and puts you in an unclean community. When you and I are sinners, we’re isolated by our disease from our relationship with God.
I went to my doctor on Wednesday for my four month check up, post surgery and he is a neurosurgeon as part of the clinic where I go-neurosurgery. He only sees patients, two days a week lets say and so the days you go the waiting room is pretty full. A lot of the people in there are in pretty bad straits. They might have halo brackets on, many of them are in wheelchairs; some of them are profoundly disabled. There’s like a shelter nearby and they bring a van load of men and women who are in wheelchairs who are profoundly disabled. When I went this last week, they were unloading a number of these men and women who were in wheelchairs. One gentleman, he’s quadriplegic, he had enough shoulder muscles to move his little joystick on his wheelchair, was trying to navigate it. It’s just the oxymoronic, the waiting room isn’t even designed for people with wheelchairs. It irritates me. So I’m moving chairs out of the way so he could get his wheelchair in and he’s hard to talk to, but he said, “Thank you.” We just exchanged a few, “How you doing today? How’s it going?”He said, “ I need some more coffee.” I said, “I do too.” So we were laughing and talking and his attitude was very pleasant and he’s completely dependent upon other people. There were some others in wheelchairs who were non-commucative and I sat there in the waiting room going, their disease has isolated them from community. I’m not saying that to make you feel bad or guilty. I’m just saying think about it. When you’re that disabled and that diseased, you’re isolated from “the normal” world. We’re all abnormal. It’s just the visibility of the disease. There’s is different. The sin condition of the leper is no different than the condition of you and me. Being in a wheelchair is no different than walking on two feet upright. We’re all in that situation. Now these after they are healed, they are no longer isolated and their disease is gone and they’re back in a community. It’s a great picture of the compassion and grace of Jesus.
A number of years ago, I visited a two star general in the hospital. He was about to face major surgery. His attending physician had come into talk to him about the procedure and I was sitting there listening. His surgeon made a comment, “Cancer is no respecter of persons.” I’ve often thought of that in respect to our sin condition. Sin is no respecter of persons. In other words, we’re all guilty. We’re all sinners. There are none righteous. No not one. The good news is that the ground of calvary is level. The base at the foot of the cross where Christ died for your sins and for mine is level ground. You don’t have to be a little better than someone else. I don’t have to be better than you. We need to stop the comparison game and realize we’re all sinners. We all deserve hell. None deserve heaven and it is by grace and grace alone that He calls, that He compels, that He chooses us, and then by faith, by trust, by believing in Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, we are saved. We of all people should be the most thankful people on the planet because He loves you and He cares about you and He died for your sins. If you’ve trusted in Christ, in Christ alone, you’ve received the greatest gift of all time. His life for yours, eternal life with Him, forgiveness of sin forever and ever in a community with His people and His kingdom forever. That is a great reason to be thankful. Next week Part two, of Why we should be the most thankful people on the planet. This is Michael Easley inContext.