Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Year A

Thanksgiving Day A
(Revised Common Lectionary)

Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Psalm 65; II Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19

Deuteronomy was compiled and edited as Moses' farewell sermon/address to God's people in which he reviews all that God has done with a recurring admonition-- Keep all the Lord's teachings and God's people will be sustained.  After forty years of brutal wandering in wilderness, God's people now stand on the border of entering the land of God's covenant.  This land is staggeringly bountiful and fertile; "you will lack nothing...."  However, be warned, do not allow this abundance to make "your heart haughty and... forget that the Lord your God..." is the One who provided.  Do not "say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand made me this wealth.'"  Rather, always "remember the Lord your God..." for God is the source of the "power to make wealth...."  

Although there are no words to adequately praise the Lord, the psalmist cannot resist.  She must first confess her "mischief" and "crimes," before continuing with a crucial petition: "May we be sated with the Lord's bounty."  She acknowledges the Lord's "awesome acts" and "rescuing" deeds as the traits of the same One whose "power" and "might" are manifest throughout creation.  It is the Lord, she avers, who "soaks" the earth to "enrich" it so it produces "grain."  "Your bountiful year" is capped with luxuriant meadows and hills that sustain "flocks" and "grain."  She discovers that creation is not mute: "they shout for joy and even sing."

Paul is certain that the person who "sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."  Therefore, give, give "cheerfully, not reluctantly or under compulsion...."  If we assume/accept that "God is able to provide... every blessing in abundance" then we can/should just as easily assume/accept that "by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly...."  "You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity...."  "thanks be to God for this indescribable gift."

In a revelatory encounter unique to Luke's narrative, Jesus was on the road "to Jerusalem," skirting the border between
"Samaria and Galilee" when "ten lepers approached him."  Although they kept a cautionary distance, they were still within shouting distance: "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"  Jesus gave them one simple instruction, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."  As soon as they started to follow his insurrection, they were "made clean."  Of the ten, only one returned to give thanks; and that one was a "Samaritan."  Jesus asked, Where are the other nine?  "Was none .. to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"  He told the man, who bowed before him, to get up and go: "Your faith has made you well."  Once, again, Luke privileges the least expected, the alien, who did the right thing, which was to give "thanks" to God and identifies giving thanks as the beginning of faith.

Biblical texts never get over their awe of the sheer abundance of creation.  The psalmist 'sees' that the earth is "soaked" with the elements that "enrich" the earth "so that it produces all we will ever need."  She 'hears' creation "sing."  Standing on the cusp of fulfillment, looking out over the spectacular fertility of the land the Lord has given, Moses 'sees' so much abundance, he can announce, "you will lack for nothing."

'Seeing' and even 'hearing' the abundance of creation is an act of will, a decision to be made.

Jean-Luc Marion inserts his notion of "saturated phenomenon" into our traditional understanding of how we perceive the world.  By this notion, he means that the world overwhelms our senses and, therefore, we must rely on hermeneutics/interpretation to make sense of it.  In an important collection of essays in response to Marion's work entitled Counter-Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion, Emmanuel Falque quotes Marion and then comments.  "In an essay by Marion we read: 'By saturating phenomenon I understand here one where the manifest given goes beyond not only what  a human look can bear without being blinded and dying, but what the world in its essential finitude can receive and contain."  ("The Saturated Phenomenon," trans Thomas A. Carlson, Philosophy Today 40, nos 1-4 [1996]: 103-24)  Falque also quotes Marion in the same essay: "the miracle will no longer bear on a physical event, but on my consciousness itself." (Ibid, p.49)  Falque now adds: "the true miracle, according to Marion, is in this way a 'miralce of my consciousness,' a lived experience in the conversion of my way of looking at things rather than in the things themselves."  In an essay which concludes the collection, Marion himself writes" "Not seeing or, worse, not accepting what he sees-- [is] in short blindness undergone or willed."  (p.383ff)

If one "wills" to 'see' and 'hear' the extravagance of creation as meaning "you will lack for nothing,"  two reactions follow spontaneously: 1) gratitude, 2) generosity.  The clear and really only point of that story unique to Luke's gospel is that the  act of thanking God was essential for making the man whole.  Paul writes that if one makes the willful decision to 'see' that God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance," (emphasis added), then "by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly" -- "cheerfully!"

In her own response to Marion's work in the same collection of essays, Kathryn Tanner argues that, "One receives gifts only in giving them back to the giver in the same way that one has been given them." (p.222)

decision to 'see' and 'hear'.  And what follows is gratitude and generosity. "May we be sated with the Lord's bounty."