Sunday Sermon 27th September – Thank you for what I’ve got

Thank you for what I’ve got…

Deuteronomy 8: 6-18

I borrowed a table clothe from a neighbour once and felt terrible when I spilt red wine all over it that left a terrible stain. It was a perfectly good table cloth, but it was ruined and I didn’t know what to do other than own up and pay the price of a new one.

I could have folded the clothe in such a way as to hide the stain and then moved home before my neighbour used it again, but that would have been rather extreme.

When God lent us this plant it was in good condition, very good condition, but we’ve made a mess of it and I don’t know how we can remove the stains caused by pollution, abuse, neglect and exploitation before we have to give back what we borrowed.

We haven’t been lent a table clothe that can be stained and replaced, but a most precious treasure that is irreplaceable and the damage can’t be hidden. We don’t appreciate some things until it’s too late, do we?

It occurred to me in the week that when the sun shines after 40 days of rain we thank God for the sunshine. When it rains after 40 days of sunshine we thank God for the rain. We don’t often say thank you for what we’ve got unless it is better than what we had! It’s only when the day has gone do we appreciate how good it was!

I was at a Zoom meeting on Wednesday where everyone was complaining that it was a depressing day because it was raining, but I wanted to thank God for the beautiful weather we had just had for the week. I had to say that as christians — as Church — surely we are called to be the sunshine in the despair.

As Jesus says “you are the light of the world so let your light shine before people so they can see the goodness and praise our Father in heaven!” (Matthew 5: 14-16) Thank you, Lord, for what you made me to be and gave me to do!

In one of my bible reflections during the week I read that Dale Carnegie, an author and lecturer, once observed that, “success is getting what you want, but happiness is wanting what you get!” We can miss the joy of the journey because we are so focussed on reaching our destination.

A question I ask myself is whether we will know our destination when we reach it or will we want to travel further to find something better and want more than what the Lord has given us? God led his people into the good land with streams of living water freely flowing and harvests rich and plentiful, but what happens when we have tasted the good food and multiplied our wealth? We want more.

As I read the preceding verses in this chapter I wondered why we are not happy with a few clothes that last for ever, but want more that look better so to produce them we exhaust the earth of its resources and pollute the environment with all the waste. What was wrong with the clothes that didn’t wear out? (verse 4)

What great strength the people had to journey for 40 years with little food and on the basic diet their feet didn’t swell. Our Father was loving them all the way to the promised land. It wasn’t the bread that gave them life, but the words that came from the mouth of God. We want more from God than Words, we want miracles.

Jesus echoes the words of verse three when he is in the wilderness that, “people do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the word of God.” (Matthew 4: 4) We don’t even challenge Jesus to turn stones into bread anymore because we believe we can do it for ourselves with all the knowledge we have. We believe the power and the strength is in our hands to produce what we want which is more than we need.

We have a vision to reach our destination, but will we recognise it when we get there OR have we been there without knowing it? It’s not ahead of us. It’s behind us. It was that place with streams of living water freely flowing and harvests rich and plentiful, a land where bread was never scarce and minerals were dug from the hills. Thank you, Lord, that you led us to a land of plenty! Forgive us for not recognising it when we had it.

The will of God has been undone, the kingdom came and went again as we neglect the Word that is our daily bread and seek to reach that heavenly place when our life is finished on the earth. We can’t turn back to find the vision, but our Father has sent his Son to remind us of what we can do when we follow him. We can restore this planet God loves so much and lent to us in trust.

The bread we break and share at a communion celebration reminds us of the life of Jesus, but today I want to make sure that I don’t forget the commands of the Lord our God, our heavenly Father and Creator.

The life of Jesus was broken on a cross at Calvary, but the heart of God was broken long before by people who forgot to observe the commands which are the foundation on which the kingdom of heaven is built. It is a place within us yet we look for it beyond us. It is not a destination we travel to reach because it is a place that travels within us. If we forget what the Lord our God has done for us and follow the gods of the world we will bring destruction on ourselves, but it only needs a few of us to remember where our power and strength comes from to restore what we have been lent to the good it was in the beginning. Let’s find that hope of how the few can make a difference from Luke’s gospel….

Luke 17: 11-19

One out of ten is the mark of failure in the classroom, but can be the cause for celebration in the mission and ministry of the Church.

Jesus tells parables of the joy when one sheep out of a hundred is lost then found and one out of ten coins that a woman rejoices at finding. One out of ten isn’t a mark of failure to be disappointed at, but something to celebrate.

We celebrate success by the quantity in a crowd rather than in the quality of a few and one walking in great faith will achieve more than many followers of religion. The witness of one who steps out of the crowd and makes a public statement will receive more than the hidden believers who go to Church but forget how much God has done for them.

Celebrating the return of the one isn’t judgement time of the nine, but encouragement for the crowd that there is more to receive in the giving of ourselves. The story of the nine isn’t told, but I can imagine them having a quiet conversation with their priest and getting on with life as if nothing had happened. A bit of private prayer, but no public statement of gratitude and recognition of where the healing came from.

Remembering Jesus and what God has done through him will increase the blessing we receive and enable us to go out much stronger than before. We can be among the few, but give hope to the many.

God gives us so much, yet we take it for granted and want much more. So many people look for something more beyond what they have received and want the whole world to be healed before they will believe. “Why does God let all this happen?” is the familiar cry from our communities as we fail to recognise that what God does through us IS for the healing of the many. It only takes ONE seed to fall to the ground and it will multiply. (John 12: 23-25) You might feel like a minority in your community, but you can be the one seed that will produce a harvest.

Jesus is walking through a community standing at a social distance today and hears people crying out for him to have pity on them and he answers their prayers, but they still want more, much more because they are still walking in the wilderness. What’s the point of having a physical healing for my mental health to become my ruin? The sickness has gone, but so has the job and that only leads to the weeds of greater worry that choke the seeds of any hope!

Only one out of ten appreciates the little he has been given and returns to the source of his healing “praising God in a loud voice!” He is very much in the minority in a sceptical community, an outsider in more ways than one, but he praises God with joy in his heart. The image of throwing ourselves at the feet of Jesus and saying thank you is a statement of take me, use me, let me be who I can be for the God I praise.

Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising, give me joy in my heart, I pray; give me joy in my heart, keep me praising, keep me praising till the break of day. It’s not a song sung in church, but a song sung from the heart out in the community where Jesus is walking.

As one of the few we will be seen as the outsider in the world, but because of it we won’t only be cleansed we will be healed because of our faith. Our faith is that spiritual seed within us that grows to be seen as the Kingdom of God which is what Jesus then teaches immediately following the encounter with the Samaritan. (verses 20-21)

Our faith is our spiritual health that strengthens our physical and mental health so that we can reveal the Kingdom of God. Thanking God for the little we receive will make us stronger so that we can get up and go to do what needs to be done.

So a fundamental lesson for our mission and ministry is not to be discouraged when you see only one out of ten respond to your hard work, because that one outsider can get up and go to help change a whole community. What is a bad mark in the classroom is a good result in the mission and ministry of the church so be one of the few that will make a difference for the many…..!