• Rev. John Martin

Let us Give Thanks

There is one thing I can tell about everyone here. That is that everyone reading this got dressed this morning.

Unless you are like my younger son, Geoff, who, when he was in primary school went to bed at night with his school clothes on. When his mother and I discovered that and asked him why, his reply was that it saved time getting dressed in the morning. Well that practice soon ended.

So, you are wearing clothes. Do you know where your clothes were made? Do you know how well the makers of your clothes were paid? What conditions they worked under? Was the production of your clothes environmentally sustainable? Many people purchase quite good clothing at op shops. If your attire came from an op shop, it was still manufactured somewhere by someone from material produced by others.

Now I want to read share something with you. This is from Martin Luther King’s Christmas Sermon on Peace, Ebenezer Baptist Church Atlanta, Georgia in the US on 24th December, 1967.

Listen carefully for what he misses.

"It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world?

You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African.

And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality." (Martin Luther King Jr.)

Did you hear that? He didn’t talk about the person getting dressed. But he mentioned tea and coffee and cocoa, chocolate.

That was in 1967 and he was speaking about world peace and non-violence. And four months later he would be dead.

Fair Trade hadn’t really been thought much about then. Fair wages, good working conditions, environmental sustainability. Here, many years later, we think of those things. But one thing has not changed. As Dr King said ‘that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny’.

He did talk about toast and bread and the baker.

I wonder if anyone here remembers this about our daily bread.

Back of the bread is the flour, And back of the flour is the mill, And back of the mill is the wind and the rain, And the Father's will.

So goes the old grace which explains that the will of God is behind all the work and effort that goes into the production of a loaf of bread. Unexpressed but implied is the work of planting the seed to grow the wheat, the grinding of the grain to make the flour and the mixing and baking resulting in the bread we eat.

It is a reminder that behind every product we purchase and use there lies the labour of people: growing, transporting and manufacturing at various stages the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the myriad other products we take for granted.

Just as this old grace urges us not to take something as simple as a loaf of bread for granted, the fair trade movement encourages us to take heed of all that goes into the goods and service we take for granted and to ensure fair wages, good working conditions and environmental sustainability in everything.

Can this be anything other than the Father’s will?

This prayer is a table grace.

Perhaps the only prayer use corporately in a family.

The grace we use at meals is really a prayer of thanks.

And that is what our Gospel reading is about today.

The story of the healing by Jesus of ten men. One gave thanks. The others? Well as Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?”

Today we may see it just as one man remembering his manners and being polite as he came back to give thanks. It makes a nice little lesson for the kids on how we must always say thank you.

Let’s look at what was so radical about this event.

First Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and as he went he passed along the border country between Samaria and Galilee. Now Borders are always troublesome places. Here races and culture mix and clash. At border the authorities become edgy. Think about the world’s borders today.

The border between Israelis and Palestinians, the border between North Korea and South Korea, the Border between Turkey and Syria where the Kurds live, so much in our news and our prayers right now.

Borders are touchy places. Outside an unnamed village along the border between Galilee and Samaria Jesus was met by ten men who had a dreaded skin disease. We normally call that leprosy.

The leprosy is not the Hansen’s disease we know as leprosy today. It seems to have been rather a term for a range of skin diseases which were assumed to be contagious.

For this group of ten men their condition meant social isolation. They could not work and so in a land with no social security they were reduced to poverty and forced to exist by begging. All social contacts were denied them. They could not live with their families, mix with people or attend the synagogue. And because they could not worship at the Synagogue they were religious outcasts and isolates as well. Physically unclean. Socially unclean and religiously impure and unclean.

We who enjoy such freedom cannot imagine what life was like for those men.

They knew where help could be found. Perhaps they had heard from people, who of course kept their distance for fear of infection, that there was this man named Jesus going round healing people like them.

And when Jesus was passing through they knew their opportunity had arrived. They shouted: “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us”.

It’s funny that in the Bible it is often the people on the margins who recognised Jesus. The important religious people, the scribes and the Pharisees, would never have described Jesus as ‘Master’. But here this ragamuffin group of decrepit baggage saw in Jesus an authority others had missed.

Jesus didn’t touch them or say a prayer. He simply sent them off to the priest. The priests were the health inspectors of the day. If anyone claimed to be cured they had to get a seal of approval from the priests. Once they had given approval the person could return to ordinary social life: family, work, synagogue and so on. They would become a person again.

And only one came back to give thanks to Jesus.

And he was a Samaritan.

The men who had been united by their skin condition were now divided by their race.

No longer a leper or unclean this man now had another problem. He was a hated Samaritan. Readers of Luke’s Gospel were by now getting the idea that Samaritans weren’t totally bad. Back in Chapter Ten there is the familiar story of the Good Samaritan.

The Samaritan came back and gave thanks. He was praising God in loud voice. He fell at Jesus feet and thanked him.

Jesus made the observation that there were ten men healed and only this Samaritan bothered to come back and give thanks.

The man’s faith had made him well. Not only physically clean, but well in the sense of whole, body, mind, soul, a complete person.

For us, we can pause and thank of all the things we can be thankful for.

In the year there are so many different global days, for example:

16th October is World Food Day,

17th October is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

18th October is EU Anti-Trafficking Day.

As we pray around these issues we can give thanks that we have enough food, that most of us don’t live in poverty and and that we are not victims of traffiking and slavery.

And we can all join the Samaritan Leper in giving all the praise and thanks to God.

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