CONTENT #4 a Stewardship Series
It amazes me how often we forget to be thankful. We become so accustomed to griping and complaining about the things that bug us that we forget to simply say Thank You for the little things that have gone right and blessed our lives. I’m as guilty as anyone else.
I remember days when I said, “Thank you, Lord,” when the car started, because sometimes it didn’t. But I don’t ever remember saying “Thank you, Lord” when my current vehicle starts up right away because it doesn’t have any problems. And yet I should be just as Thankful, shouldn’t I?
As we wind up our Stewardship Series, it’s appropriate, especially right before Thanksgiving, to look at being Content Enough to say Thank You in all situations.
It was one of those days, one of those proverbial days that every parent and child experiences once in a while. This time it was the youngest boy. Johnny had been a pain in the neck all day long. There wasn’t any kind of trouble that he hadn’t gotten into. Consequently, he had viewed, at very close range, the inside of the time out corner several times that day.
He’d been so bad that Mom and Dad decided that they would eat in silence. When it came time to say “grace” Dad asked Johnny if he wanted to say grace like he’s been doing for a while.
Johnny said, “Yes!” And then he prayed, “I thank thee, Father, that thou hast prepared this table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”
There was about as much gratitude and thankfulness in that prayer as there was in the hearts of the nine lepers who DIDN’T return, that Luke tells us about in his Gospel. Let’s look at that passage. Luke 17:11-19 (NRSV)
 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.
 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,
 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.
 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.
 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?
 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
That sense of ingratitude which the nine lepers showed is an attitude that I don’t understand; especially from people with leprosy.
A. Life as a leper, in Jesus day, was both humiliating and hopeless. If ever there was a group of people who were hopeless, it was the lepers. They were OUTCASTS. From what I’ve read, if yours was a pronounced case of leprosy, you had to walk with a walking stick which had a bell attached to it and announce your presence to others on the road. The bell was to let people know you were coming. The noise was annoying but you could get used to the jingling, like getting used to the sound of your refrigerator running. But what was hard, what was humiliating was being your own herald of gloom.
Not only that, but according to Jewish law, you had to keep a distance of at least 50 feet between you and someone not affected. And you had to stay downwind of everyone else. It wasn’t a pretty sight. It wasn’t a lifestyle to aspire to, either.
And here ten lepers together; ten people, who, in their common tragedy and the despair of leprosy, had banded together. They had put aside their individual national and religious heritages and banded together because they were outcasts. Those distinctions no longer mattered. Those distinctions had fallen away with the first sloughing off of leprous skin.
To be honest, who cared? Here was companionship. Here were others, lonely, hurting, needing compassion, understanding and healing. Here were folks just like themselves. Here was caring and protection, for there IS safety in numbers for outcasts.
B. But these OUTCASTS didn’t stop their OUTCRY
And it was this brow-beaten brotherhood of hopelessness that stood outside the edge of the village and shouted, “Have mercy on us!” as Jesus entered the village. They’d heard about Jesus. Although they couldn’t get close to others, they knew what other people were saying. They knew about Jesus’ fame AND about his abilities. There was just enough hope, just enough wishing and longing, just enough faith left in these ten people for them to seek the “could be, and might be” hope the Messiah offered.
So, they stood along the side of the road. Each of them at the proper distance, and in order that they would be heard above the rest of the crowd, like ragged desperate cheerleaders, they shouted in unison, “Have mercy on us!”
C. And of course, the OUTCRY of the OUTCASTS lead to the OUTCOME
Such was Jesus compassion for the helpless and hopeless that he healed them. He told them: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” They turned to go and they were healed. Just like that. Jesus hadn’t even touched them. He commanded it. He willed it done as they turned to go away. And when they turned, they were healed. And that’s amazing. But what’s even more amazing is that ONLY ONE OF THEM TURNED BACK TO GIVE THANKS AND PRAISE GOD.
Emily Post and Captain Kangaroo both taught us better than that. Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers taught us better than that. Our grandmothers would be appalled. They taught us to say, “Thank You,” for every gift we received, even the ones we didn’t like. It was simple kindness and proper conduct.
Personally, I would have thought that the whole group would have been whoopin’ and hollerin’, doing high-fives and back slaps. I thought they would have bounced Jesus on their shoulders like the hero of the hour. But instead, they just turned and went their own merry way.
All except one, that is. And HE was a SAMARITAN. He didn’t know any better. Whole and healthy, outside of Samaria, he was only tolerated and accepted slightly more than a leper. And yet, HE’S THE ONE WHO CAME BACK.
It’s odd isn’t it? It’s odd how Jesus always used the outcasts to teach us the important lessons about faith and mercy and forgiveness; about being a good neighbor and even about gratitude.
Here was this Samaritan who least expected any blessing, especially from a Jew. Here was this Samaritan leper who knew he wasn’t worth anything and surely didn’t deserve anything. I mean, he’d been reminded of that every time the little bell on his walking stick jingled. And yet, he was the most grateful.
He looked down, saw that he was healed and then ran back, praising God and fell at Jesus feet, thanking him over and over and over again. Tears of joy and utter disbelief poured out and washed the Masters feet. BUT WHERE WERE THE OTHER NINE?
That was question Jesus asked. “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Is this all that came back?” At that point, you and I probably would have thrown in the towel and said, “O.K., Lord, I’m done. Get me outta here. If this is all the thanks I get, I don’t want any part of it.”
But not Jesus; You and I, probably, but not Jesus. No, the Son of God used everything to teach us about our relationship with God. Jesus even used the ONE leper who came back to teach us about giving thanks; And about being “CONTENT TO THANK.”
II. FROM HOPELESS TO HOPE FILLED:
A. While all ten lepers were healed in body, the one who came back and gave thanks, was healed body, mind and spirit. He stepped into the rest of his life filled with hope; hope born of Christ Jesus, the Son of God.
When we are able to say “Thank You;” when we are able to Give Thanks to God and to one another it fills us with hope as well. Hope born of Christ, Hope born of the Content of our hearts, Hope born in the very act of Giving Thanks.
I think there’s an aspect of our being that we only discover in a meaningful relationship with God through Christ. In that relationship we discover that much of life and most of our Contentment with Content of life come from this Thankful Spirit.
I think we have to be thankful or we’ll become discouraged.
I think we have to be thankful or we’ll become bitter. Because discouragement leads to bitterness.
I think we have to be thankful or we’ll become arrogant and self-satisfied.
I think we have to be thankful so we can become humble because lack of humility leads to arrogance and self-satisfaction.
Taking time to count your blessings as they used to say; taking time to say Thank You to God helps keep everything in the proper order; the created order. Giving Thanks reminds us that we are not the center of the universe, we’re not in charge; God is.
I don’t know about you, but the fact that I don’t have to be in charge of the universe gives me hope. Because I don’t have the skills and abilities needed to fill God’s shoes.
B. However, because Christ is alive in my life; because I am created in the Image of God, I can reflect some of God’s glory into the world. And through reflecting God’s glory I can actually bring God even more glory.
I now I’ve said it before but my pastor said there are three kinds of giving. There’s Grudge Giving, Duty Giving and Thanks Giving. I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week and I think there’s a subset of Thanksgiving called UN-Giving. Kind of like selling Seven-Up as the Un-Cola.
UN-Giving comes from UNselfishness, which grows naturally out of the Thankful Heart. I think it is a mindset that should take a hold of us all year long. We know it comes into focus during this season. Some might call it Random Acts of Kindness. But these aren’t random, these are hope filled and purposeful.
III. HOPE FILLED UN-GIVING:
A. I don’t remember when it started but I had the idea one year that one of the ways we could focus our Thankfulness and not forget to be thankful on Thanksgiving and during the Christmas season was to celebrate Thanksgiving in a different sort of way.
A few years ago I did some research and found out through the Farm Bureau that the average family spends around $55-$65 on a Thanksgiving meal. That’s just the basics.
I also discovered that 40% of the world lives on less $4.00 a day. 80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day, that’s taking in all the economic differences and balancing everything out.
It was then that I began challenging myself and other people to celebrate Thanksgiving in a new way by spending as much on helping someone else as they do on themselves. That’s what I mean by UN-Giving. One of the things that falls into the UN-Giving category is the coffee I drink.
B. I could buy cheaper coffee and coffee that is probably just as good. I pay a little over $12 a pound which includes shipping. The coffee I buy from www.groundsforchange.com is delicious, it’s Organic, Certified CarbonFree®, Shade grown, and Fair Trade, which means that the actual growers make more. Not only that, but Grounds For Change is a member of the 1% For The Planet and give well over that to support social and environmental causes. Starbucks Christmas blend is $15 a pound and their regular blends run from $11 to $15. So, um UN-Giving helps others and the environment.
C. There is Heifer International, too which our kids support through their Children’s offering. For $30 you can by a Hive of honeybees. For $60 you can buy a trio of rabbits. For $20 you can give a starter flock of chicks, ducks or goslings. For $50 you can give a Basket of Hope, which includes both rabbits and chickens.
Here’s the thing I like about Heifer International that it makes in part of this UN-Giving list. It is a living gift. In other words, families who receive your gift become donors as they pass on the gift to other families in their community. This allows them to help others as you have helped them. The gift keeps giving as each new family passes it on.
D. There’s still Nothing But Nets and it’s newer version Imagine No Malaria, $10 buys a bed net that will save lives.
E. The most recent UN-Giving project just came across my email Thursday Night from the United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration. They sent me information on the UMCmarket.org. It is an online shopping portal that gives micro donations to OUR church. The only string attached is you have to login to UMCmarket and then click the link to the online shopping sites like Amazon, Sears, Office Depot, Macy’s, Petco and others.
Amazon, Office Depot and B&N pay 4.5%, Macy’s 2%, Walmart & Sears 3% and Petco 6% on each sale. Mary and I tithe and we do a lot of online shopping. Now through this site, we can UN-Give even more to the church.
F. Oh, and don’t forget about UN-Giving by changing your profile picture on Facebook to an unselfie. That’s something else I discovered this week. The purpose of unselfies is to help with disaster relief in the Philippines. It’s part of the movement #givingtuesday. It’s really the inspiration behind the UN-Giving. I’ve given to UMCOR but by posting my unselfie, I’m challenging everyone else to do the same and even given them links in which to be UN-Giving.
UN-Giving is a way of giving extra through the things that you would normally do. And for me, UN-Giving is a way of being a Good Steward and saying Thanks at the same time.
I’m more Content and I get to help someone else be Content as well. So, UN-Give through special causes like those. It’s a way to share my Thankfulness and put the Content of my Heart and Soul to work through the Content of my wallet.
Much of our Contentment comes from how we look at life and the church and our relationship with God. How Content we are with the Content of our lives depends on how it all adds up in our heads and in our hearts.
The deep challenge for each of us is to Count for Something in life. I want to Count for Jesus. And I hope you want to Count for Jesus, too, by being Content. Content with Enough; Content to Thank by giving thankfully through UN-Giving.
And simply Content to Give Thanks. Count for something that will make you Content. Count for Jesus. God wishes us Enough. Being Content is the surest cure for one of the things that always seems to lead to discontent and thinking Enough isn’t Enough. And that’s the Fonlies. You know what I’m talking about right?
Fonly I had a million dollars…Fonly I could speak…Fonly I were older…Fonly I were younger…Fonly I had more experience…Fonly I had…Fonly I could…Fonly I were…
Stewardship born of Thanks Giving and Contentment is the quickest and surest cure for the Fonlies that there is. It reminds us we have Enough. It helps us go back to say Thank You like the one leper. It helps show our heads and our wallets where our hearts truly are. Content in Christ.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.