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Introduction To The Scripture For Thanksgiving - Year A
Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Psalm 65; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19

The following material was written by the Rev. John Shearman (jlss@sympatico.ca) of the United Church of Canada. John normally structures his offerings so that the first portion can be used as a bulletin insert, while the second portion provides a more in depth 'introduction to the scripture'.

INTRODUCTION TO THE SCRIPTURE	
Thanksgiving - Year A


DEUTERONOMY 8:7-18           This lesson lifts up two elements of 
thanksgiving sacred to all humanity: a land of great productivity 
celebrating the providence of God to Israel; and keeping the celebration 
permanently meaningful by obedience to God's covenant.


PSALM 65                     Worshipping in the temple, the psalmist 
expressed gratitude for the freedom and providence with which God has 
blessed Israel.  He called on others also to stand in awe of the Lord of 
all creation and join in the jubilation of God's chosen people.


2 CORINTHIANS 9:6-15         Paul asked the Corinthians to contribute 
generously to a collection he was making to help the Christian community 
in Jerusalem, then suffering from famine.  In doing so, he gave a lesson 
in good stewardship that is still valid.  It rests on an appreciation and 
thanksgiving for a new relationship with God through faith in Jesus 
Christ.  Paul's metaphors for generosity were from the seedtime and harvest 
seasons.  He may also have had Deuteronomy 15:7-11 in mind which outlined 
the need to help the poor.  He then quoted Psalm 112:9 which he took as a 
description of the generous person.


LUKE 17:11-19                This incident reflects the hostile 
relationship between Jews and Samaritans.  It is told with a certain 
amount of polemic against Jews.  The main emphasis, however, is on the 
gratitude of the one Samaritan leper whom Jesus cleansed along with the 
other nine, who presumably were Jews like Jesus.  


A MORE COMPLETE ANALYSIS:

DEUTERONOMY 8:7-18   This passage is but a small excerpt from the second 
of the three addresses (5:1-11:32) supposedly given by Moses to the 
Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness of Sinai.  The whole 
address exhorts Israel to remain uncompromisingly faithful to their 
covenant relationship with Yahweh.  As such, it serves as an introduction 
to the liturgical code which follows (12:1-26:19).  It is at least 
plausible that the compilers of the Book of Deuteronomy had a selection of 
exhortations like this available to them, or recalled similar exhortations 
from specific public occasions.  However, both the setting and the style 
suggest that it is a creative work of Hebrew literature from the late 7th 
century BCE.  2 Kings 22:8-20 tells of a sacred book being discovered 
during the repairs to the temple in the eighteenth year of the reign of 
Josiah (circa 621 BCE).  

The reading is singularly appropriate for Thanksgiving because it lifts up 
two elements for thanksgiving sacred to all humanity, whether in a wholly 
agricultural or urban society.  The first image of a land of great 
productivity celebrates the providence of God to Israel.  The Promised 
Land had already been in the Israelites possession for many centuries and 
in many respects had become urbanized with towns and cities supplied with 
food from the surrounding rural areas.  

The reform of Josiah with its centralizing of worship in the temple in 
Jerusalem, represented by the Book of Deuteronomy, was a late phase of the 
urbanization of Israel.  Community life of the time certainly was 
dramatically different from what oral tradition told of their experiences 
in the Sinai wilderness.  A plentiful supply of water, rich soil for 
growing all sorts of food, and mines for the production of copper made 
cities like Jerusalem possible (vss. 7-9).  Copper was particular valuable 
for the making of sacred vessels for the temple, but not weapons for the 
defence of the country.  Weaponry of the Bronze Age had been replaced by 
those made of iron circa 1200 BCE.

The second image in this passage tells the Israelites how to keep their 
celebration permanently meaningful by their obedience to God's covenant.  
That is one of our modern problems with Thanksgiving.  It has become 
little more than another long weekend before winter sets in.  The wealth 
of Western nations has become a trap for self-indulgence similar to that 
envisaged in vss. 12-13.  Reminiscences of slavery in Egypt and the trek 
through the wilderness (vss. 14-16) call for reflection on where this 
wealth comes from and seeks to banish all sense of self-sufficiency and 
aggrandizement (vs. 17).  

Be thankful, lest we forget.  


PSALM 65   This is a prayer of thanksgiving of special power and beauty.  
The psalmist expressed particular gratitude for several of God's gifts: 
forgiveness (vss.2b-3), worship (vs. 4), freedom (vs. 5), creation (vss. 
6-8), and bountiful providence (vss. 9-13).  These are the most sacred 
gifts with which God has blessed Israel.  So he called on others also to 
stand in awe of the Lord of all creation and join in the jubilation of 
God's chosen people.
	
The psalm was most likely used in the liturgy of the temple in post-exilic 
times.  It emphasizes not only the particular gifts but the sovereignty of 
God at all levels of human life and creation.  It breathes a spirit of 
universalism in that God's blessings are not only for Israel as the chosen 
people, but for all humanity.

It has been speculated by some scholars that vss. 1-8 were composed  
separately from vss. 9-13.  Nonetheless, the whole composition is an 
excellent example of the finest aspects of Hebrew worship drawing on the 
great monotheistic traditions of the prophets, especially Second Isaiah.  
It summons the peoples of the world to Zion where Yahweh has given to 
Israel the special gift of revelation.  


2 CORINTHIANS 9:6-15   Scholars agree to disagree about the composite 
nature of Paul's correspondence to the Corinthians.  In this instance he 
was en route to Jerusalem from wherever he was at the time this letter was 
written, or that part of 2 Corinthians which contained this passage among 
others.  He had previously asked the Corinthians to contribute generously 
to a collection he was making to help the Christian community in 
Jerusalem, then suffering from famine.  Now, he wanted them to have their 
gifts ready for him to pick up as he passed through Corinth.  There is 
almost a threat of them being shamed should some of the Macedonians 
accompany him (vs. 4).  Apparently he felt it important to give them 
advance notice of his intentions; but he may also have sensed that they 
may have had some reluctance about contributing willingly (vs. 5).

In doing so, he gave the Corinthians a lesson in good stewardship that is 
still valid: Generosity brings rich spiritual benefits to both the giver 
and the receiver.  Such generosity rests on a deep appreciation and 
thanksgiving for a new relationship with God through faith in Jesus 
Christ.  

However, that is not the way he put it at first.  Rather, he couched this 
main point in metaphors from the seeding and harvest seasons.  One wonders 
how much of the oral tradition of the saying of Jesus he had received, for 
these metaphors for generosity follow similar sayings in the gospels 
attributed to Jesus.  (Cf. Matt.  6:25-34; 7:2; 13:1-9; Mark 10:30; John 
6:1-14; etc.)   Paul may also have had Deuteronomy 15:7-11 in mind which 
outlined the need to help the poor.  He quoted Psalm 112:9 which he took 
as a description of the generous person.

Finally Paul reaches the climax of his stewardship message.  The 
Corinthians will benefit themselves by being generous.  They will glorify 
God in doing so as well as meeting the needs of their fellow saints who 
will then praise God for their liberal gifts.  In other words, generosity 
is not just the making of a large contribution to a good cause; it is an 
act of worship and thanksgiving.       

Do you suppose that this year, when so many homeless people and refugees 
are in such great need in several parts of the world, that we could share 
our thanksgiving feast with them by being especially generous?


LUKE 17:11-19   The little aside that John put at the beginning of his 
narrative of Jesus asking for a drink from the woman at the well in 
Sychar, Samaria, said it all: "Jews do not share things in common with the 
Samaritans." This incident reflects that same hostile relationship.  It is 
told with a certain amount of polemic against Jews.  Every traveller to 
Jerusalem from Galilee must either pass through Samaria or skirt its 
borders.  This is still one of the hot-spots of occupied Palestinian and 
Israeli territory.  

To be told of the gratitude of the one Samaritan leper whom Jesus cleansed 
along with the other nine would have been an offence to Jews.  The 
pericope does not say so specifically, but presumably the nine were Jews 
like Jesus.  They had been banished from all social contact and ritual 
observances because they were lepers.  They were homeless, sick, and in 
many ways considered reprehensible for unknown sins.  The hills bordering 
Samaria would have been a likely place for them find some measure of 
security, but not healing.  We see many such homeless and ostracized 
people on our city streets today.  They have been made into social lepers 
for economic and political reasons.

Jesus committed several breaches of the Torah in speaking to them and 
telling them to show themselves to the priests.  No greater ritual 
impurity could there be for a priest or rabbi than to be in close 
proximity to such people.  (And haven't we heard similar fulminations 
about the homeless today?) 

The punch-line of the story is in vs. 16.  The man who returned, 
prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him was a Samaritan.  Jesus 
marvelled at the ingratitude of the other nine.  He assured the grateful 
one that it was his faith - nothing else, not his ethnic origin or his 
religious identity or his economic value to society, just his faith - had 
made him whole.  Does this not tell us something about Jesus' view of what 
faith is? It does not have any of the rigid boundaries that we tend to put 
on it.  Faith is something everyone can have.  That is particularly 
important in our pluralistic world where other religious traditions have 
given countless millions faith over the millennia of human history.

Not every one is thankful for God's blessings.  Sometimes people are so 
happy about their benefits that they neglect to express their gratitude, 
as did the nine who were also healed of leprosy.  Has our Thanksgiving 
become just another long weekend? Or are we prepared to express our faith 
and thanksgiving by helping to make people whole even when they are 'not 
like us'? 	 

                         
copyright  - Comments by Rev. John Shearman and page by Richard J. Fairchild, 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these resources.



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