Perspective of Abundance

Read Exodus 16:11-18

There exist many times in life when two opposing views present themselves. These views are usually based upon our perception. Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? This question is often quoted to show the concepts of pessimism and optimism. We also eventually realize that life generally resides somewhere in the middle of opposing views.

In the familiar passage for today, we see this challenge of contrasts. The Israelites are seeing their lives solely from the perspective of what they do not have. This perspective leads to complaining and an amnesia in regards to all which the Lord has given them. God shows the people abundance in quail and manna. They had all that they needed, and an abundance remained.

We can often have a perspective like the Israelites. We look at the world around us, complaining about all the things we do not have. Quickly, we can forget what we have thanks to the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord. All of which we truly need is provided by our God, and there is an abundance to share with others. Let each of us strive to achieve an attitude of abundance. If we succeed, it might just lead to less complaining and more gratitude.

Arriving At Success

Read Deuteronomy 8:10-18

Have you noticed what happens to some celebrities after they have achieved at least a moderate level of success in their skill area? Some of them abandon their past and focus solely on what they can now obtain. Unfortunately, some do not discipline themselves to act only in moderation. It becomes all about them and what they have been able to achieve with their gifts and talents. They forget those who have aided and supported them on their journey toward success. Some become users of people. They lack gratitude and any sense of humbleness.

The reading from Deuteronomy contains a warning to the Israelites. Moses is talking to them about the time when they will arrive in their new land and have become settled. He tells them to be cautious that when they are reaping the benefits of this new land that they do not forget God. Moses says they may be tempted to take all the credit for what they have achieved and obtained. He reminds them of all that God has done for them which made it possible to arrive at this point. Moses tells the people that all which they have is because of God. In response, the people are to praise the Lord and follow the Lord’s teachings.

The words Moses shares with the Israelites are valuable to us as we live today. Each of us have different times in our lives when we obtain some level of success and satisfaction. It can be easy for us to focus solely on what we have done to bring us to this point. We have probably worked hard, suffered, or sacrificed to arrive at our success. These times can cause us to forget the Lord’s involvement in our journey. We may also forget those who God has placed in our lives to assist us on the journey.

Moses tells the Israelites, and us, to remember God. We are to show gratitude. Our gratitude must lead to a response. The response towards God should be to strive to live what the Lord has taught us.

Remember where you came from and who helped you get here.

Owing Much

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:36-50 (NIV)

The New York Federal Reserve’s Center for Microeconomic Data reported that at the end of the fourth quarter in 2020 household debt rose to $14.56 trillion. The United States National Debt is currently over $128 trillion. We have become a people who live on credit and accumulate debt easily. Most of our debt is due to mortgages, car loans, medical expenses, student loans and credit cards.  There is not one of us who would refuse any debt relief given to us. If a creditor were to fully forgive our debt, our gratitude would be overwhelming.

In today’s passage, Jesus speaks of debt relief. A woman who had lived a sinful life comes to Jesus while he is at the home of a Pharisee. Without words, she stood behind him and cried. Then she used those tears to wet his feet. Taking her hair she dried them. Finally, she took a jar of expensive perfume and anointed them. The guests in attendance were critical of Jesus for allowing her actions. Jesus replied to them by asking Simon a question regarding debt relief. The point of his interaction with Simon was to show that one whose larger debt is forgiven will show more gratitude than the one with the smaller debt. The woman with more sin than the pious guests believed Jesus could forgive her sins. She showed greater gratitude than the ones who felt they had less sin and who did not believe Jesus could forgive even those.

This story causes us to pause. Do you identify with the woman or with the other guests? What do you do to express gratitude to the Lord for being forgiven? Do you believe the Lord can forgive sins or do you hold on to them? Here we are taught that the greater we understand our sin and the need for forgiveness, the more we are willing to offer in response to the sin being forgiven.

Hallelujah

On this fifth Sunday of Easter, a gentle song of gratitude seemed appropriate. Sisters, Cassandra and Callahan Star, released a version of the contemporary song Hallelujah which they entitled An Easter Hallelujah. The original version was made popular by Leonard Cohen in 2014. The Star’s version recalls the events of Jesus’s death on the cross and his resurrection. The word hallelujah is a translation of the Hebrew word for expressing gratitude and adoration. Consider your own sense of gratitude and adoration as you watch this video.

Importance of Giving Thanks

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

A dangerous occurrence in relationships is when one person assumes the other person knows what is being thought or felt. This happens far too often and frequently leads to hurt feelings. It is important for humans to make the effort to verbally express to one another feelings and appreciation. By expressing these items, confusion and doubt can be avoided. This helps to bring clarity into the relationship.

In our passage today, Jesus encounters ten lepers who cry out to him for assistance. Jesus responds by sending them to a priest. This is customary when a person appears to be healed from leprosy. The priest had to declare them clean before they could return to regular society. What seems different here is that they were healed on the way, not before they left. They must have believed Jesus would heal them before they arrived at the priest’s location. Then the account shares that only one of them returned to thank Jesus, a Samaritan whose nationality was despised by the Jews. Jesus declares that this man’s faith has made him well.

Here we are reminded of the value in expressing gratitude. Gratitude is one of those feelings that was referred to above. The other nine must have assumed Jesus would know how grateful they are for being healed. They probably wanted to return to their families and former life so quickly that they did not think to take the time to find Jesus and express thanks.

We can be guilty of the same assumptions and being too busy to stop long enough to offer thanks. We do this with one another. We do this even more often with the Lord. Our thoughts can be that others and the Lord obviously know we are thankful so keep moving forward with life’s activities. It can be an unspoken assumption.

Jesus tells us that the opposite is true. Jesus shows how much it means to be sought out and thanked. The expression of these assumed feelings make a significant difference. Take time to pause and give thanks when someone does something for you. Make the time to express your gratitude to the Lord. Afterall, the Lord gave you the air you just breathed and so much more.

Thankful Response

16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Deuteronomy 6:16-25 (NIV)

It is customary that when a person receives a gift from another individual there is a response of gratitude expressed to the giver. Depending on the occasion and the type of gift, the response may be a verbal thank you. In other situations, the gratitude is expressed in written form. Other gifts can lead to acts done for the giver out of gratitude. Whichever form of response is chosen, the goal is to communicate that the original gift is appreciated and remembered.

The passage read for today finds its origin in events of the preparation by the Israelites to enter Canaan. Moses is giving the Israelites instructions in regard to their entrance into the land which God has promised them. He tells them not to test God but instead to follow the stipulations and decrees given to them. In doing so, Moses indicates they will prosper in the new land. He then says that when their children ask why they follow these items, they explain that it is in response to all the Lord has done and told them which allowed them to be in this new land.

Some say that the expression of gratitude has waned in the context of our current culture. There appears to be a prevailing attitude of entitlement. This passage is a reminder of the importance of expressing gratitude, especially to the Lord. Our expression should not solely be one of words but one of action. For the Israelites these active responses were found in following the decrees, stipulations and law. For us, Christ fulfilled all of these items on our behalf. Our grateful response is to what God has done for us through Jesus. Our expressions of thanks should be found in the ways in which we share God’s love with others. We remember how God’s love has been expressed to us and we do the same for others. Our acts of gratitude are not found in obedience to rules but instead found in the manner in which we live our lives and care for the needs of others.

Blessings

“You will be blessed the moment you realize that you already are.”

Bryant McGill

When I think of blessings, often what comes to my mind are big things like the home in which I live, the work which provides for us, my husband, my family, and my friends. However, recently I have discovered that there are many small blessings which fill my day and I do not pause to acknowledge. The quote from Bryant McGill reminds me that realization of being blessed allows those smaller blessings, along with the larger ones, to create an attitude of thankfulness within me.

A few days back, I was taking a break and sitting on the couch. One of our dogs, Leroy, who is a one hundred pound black lab mix suddenly decided to join me on the couch. This rarely happens, often because our smaller beagle/basset mix dog has already claimed space on the couch. This day not only did Leroy join me on the couch, but he decided to lay his head on my lap. I cannot recall a time when he chose to do this. Add to this amazing action the fact that at the time he was wearing a cone due to a medical procedure to his ear a few weeks prior. I was totally caught off guard and savored the moment. This was an unexpected blessing which filled me with great joy.

This event opened my eyes to see other small blessings in my life. Blessings like sitting outside in our backyard on a warm, sunny day while watching birds at the three feeders I have placed by one of our fences. I enjoy watching the birds and seeing what different types come to eat. One of my favorites is a cardinal which lives in the trees and bush found in our neighbor’s yard in the corner where our fences meet. Recently, as I sat outside, I noticed the brilliant red color of the cardinal’s feathers as he moved between the feeder and the fence. I decided that if he was going to be a frequent visitor, he should have a name, so I named him Roger. A small blessing which brightened my day.

Having moved into our new home last November, life had been pretty hectic at the end of the year. The holidays added to the busyness of our lives. At Christmas time, my husband gave me the awesome gift of Adirondack chairs which he painted white. I had been saying how much I wanted a pair some day. After we took down the Christmas decorations from our front porch, he moved the chairs there along with a fun half-barrel stand which he also painted white. Now when the sun is shining I can sit on our front porch, greet our neighbors, read, and enjoy the beauty of our neighborhood. This has become another small blessing in my life.

These are a few examples of the small blessings which can easily be overlooked or taken for granted. The Lord continues to give me both large and small blessings. When I take the time to realize how blessed I am, I am moved to express gratitude. The key is taking the time for such a realization to manifest. I encourage each of you to look for not only the large blessings of your life but also the small ones. I leave you with this quote…

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

W T Purkiser

Expressing Gratitude

This month every year in the United States, people are encouraged to pause in order to express thanks for blessings which have occurred in their lives over the year. A specific day has been set aside to do exactly this. The roots of Thanksgiving Day are found in the story of English settlers experiencing their first harvest in the new world.

Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times.The Thanksgiving holiday’s history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurs well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated.

Pilgrims and Puritans who emigrated from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. The modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is traced to a well-recorded 1619 event in Virginia and a sparsely documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter from the London Company, which specifically required “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest, which the Pilgrims celebrated with native Americans, who helped them pass the last winter by giving them food in the time of scarcity.

Wikipedia

Thinking about the upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving once again in three weeks prompted me to consider what it means to be thankful and show gratitude. To be a bit more specific, I have been thinking about gratitude in the light of my faith. Especially since the above words found in Wikipedia make mention of prayers and ceremonies among almost all religions.

There exist a variety of ways to express gratitude. Most often we think of using words to express gratitude. This may be as simple as saying, thank you, or may be longer by expressing exactly what prompts us to be thankful and how our life has been impacted. At other times, actions we take may be an expression of our gratitude.

So how do we go about expressing gratitude to God?

As a Christian, I believe that all I have and all that I am are gifts from God. God has chosen to bestow material items, means to purchase material items, talents I use, and knowledge which I have obtained upon me. God gives to me even the breath which I take and the food which sustains me. Nothing in my life exists except through the giving of it to me by God. So how do I express gratitude for my very life and everything within it?

Scripture contains suggestions which might be helpful:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micha 6:8

Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:34-40

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

John 4:11

Many other passages can be found which prompt us to give thanks to God. I lift these passages up to you because they talk not about words, or even worship, but about attitude and action. God warns the people that they can do all forms of worship and abide by the sacrificial laws which existed for ancient Israel but that without the correct actions and attitude, their expressions are hollow. (See Isaiah 1:10-18) This warning leads me to think that the best way to express gratitude to God is through our actions and attitude. I think God finds this most pleasing.

So as you pause this month to consider those aspects of your life which generate gratitude in your heart towards God, I encourage you not to just express your gratitude in words but more importantly in actions and attitude.