Tag Archives: Gratitude

Gift and Regifting

This is the sermon from January 18th, transcript is here.

This is all motivated going through giving as a key love language, and that if anything is the love language of God, then this is it.

Many ideas come from Peter Leithart’s book “Gratitude: An Intellectual History”.

It says that Jesus is the most influential person in the history of giving, undermining the Roman system of Patronage (quite a lot of detail on this here) which was all about calculated giving, and giving to create an oppressive sense of obligation.  Jesus was completely removed from this idea, and that in this agape took on Rome, and agape one.

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In everything give thanks

A Beneficiary

 

And a benefactor.

 

Otherwise we can get into grumbling which is not about being grateful to God and is about increasing our sense of entitlement.  The Biblical word for this is grumbling.

 

Looking at the 18 benedictions – about how this was taken so seriously, and that you would never say it sat on the back of a donkey because that might be perceived as haughty, or the Rabbi who gave a benediction when he went to the toilet, or the Rabbi who said that you had to go back to the place where you had received food if you ate it without having first given thanks.

 

Life is to be full of benedictions.

 

The advice is either to write a letter to someone

 

Or to invent more benedictions and attempt to say them continually.

Beautiful Property

The owner of small business, a friend of the poet Olavo Bilac, met him on the street and asked him

“Mr. Bilac, I need to sell my small farm, the one you know so well.

Could you please write an announcement for me for the paper?”

 

Bilac wrote

“For sale, a beautiful property, where birds sing at dawn in extensive woodland, bisected by the brilliant and sparkling waters of a large stream.  The house is bathed by the rising sun.  It offers tranquil shade in the evenings on the veranda.”

 

Some time later, the poet met his friend and asked whether he had sold the property, to which he replied: “I’ve changed my mind, when I read what you had written, I realised the treasure that was mine.”

A Wandering Aramean

This is something that lies behind the food philosophy of Hugh Fearnley Whittinghall.  His approach to animal welfare is not to not eat them, but to know what goes into the food that you eat, so that you appreciate what the cost is in terms of hens and pigs.  He does this thing where he shows people round the River Cottage, and they get to see all the animals, and all the plants, and then at the end of the thing they eat it.

It’s like the difference between a meal that you know how it was cooked, and one that was just given to you- you appreciate the meal much more when you know what went into it.

It’s good to know where you came from.

You cannot enjoy what you have now unless you know where it came from.

Remember Where They Came From

This message that we read this morning comes to Israel when the country is not yet formed,

And they are refugees running away from Egypt.

And they know what it was like to be slaves, and what it was like to be oppressed, and have to work long days when they were not allowed to bake bricks with straws, and their male children were thrown into the Nile.

And the command comes from God,

When you get to the land which is numerous

And you have much fruit in your land

–          And they are thinking, God let’s not count our chickens here, we are surrounded by desert, I don’t want to get my hopes up for this kind of land.  But God is saying that much you yearn for now will in fact be yours

And when you get there you will do what successful people often do

They will forget,

Or they will not appreciate what it is that they have been given.

And so you will stand before the Lord with a basket of bread

And you will say

“My father was a wandering Aramean and he went down into Egypt and he stayed there few in number and the Lord made him big and numerous and the Egyptians treated us harshly and we cried out to God and God saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression, and God brought us out of Egypt.”

That is what you will say.

And these words “My father was a wandering Aramean”

Some of the oldest words in the Bible.

And you have to say this in the land

With your basket of the first of the fruit

And in the place that God chooses.

You have to do this.

It is about seeing the process that you brought you here,

But one thing that is sometimes missing

You have to see that God was part of that

And that something which to your fathers was distant and unachievable actually became real.

And it became real because of God.

That basket has bread in it because of God.

And so I ask you this morning,

What are the things that are in your basket, that at one point were uncertain,

Unrealised,

Strived for.

What’s in your basket

The door that you go across

The couch that sit upon you

The children whose photos are upon your eyes

The ring that is on your finger

That wage packet that comes into your bank account

The fact that your hear beats and your lungs breath

What is there,
That one point in your past is uncertain

And going back even further

What is there that was uncertain for the people who came before you

And the claim is do not forget that this is got here because of God

Actually not just because God is there

But also because someone cried to God.

Do you notice the pattern of the story.

The Aramean goes down to Egypt and he is small and then he grows

And that is the pattern, things happen and they go well

But then the Egyptians oppressed us – reality kicked in

And at that point the people cried out to God.

There was a point at which you cried out to God

And the thing that is in that basket happened when someone cried out to God

Think how many answered prayers you are the result of.

Success Makes You Stale

How many of you have gone stale

How many have been blunted by where we are

Actually successful people never think about how successful they are

They worry about losing what they have

Have you forgotten that you are where you are because of answered prayer

Or does the goodness of God seem something that is far from  you.

Then you have to remember the story,

Or rather your version of it

So what I want you to do is write down your own version of the wandering Aramean Story.

What was the thing that happened to you where you cried and cried and God heard your prayer.

I want us to write down these stories.

The unknown

This week I was at Andy Fotheringham’s funeral

Margaret’s husband

And you do wonder,

What’s it going to be for me

Which one of us will be at the top of the grave

And which one will be down in the coffin

And even more disturbingly was the Linn cemetery’s section for young children

A part that was full of toys and you think

Please never let me be there

But you never know that

You never know

And life is full of the “We just don’t know”

And how do you deal with the “We just don’t know”

And God says

You shall present yourself in the place and you shall have bread in a basket

And you shall say “A wandering Aramean was my Father”

You have to remember the story of God who got you where you are now.

The Basket

The episode here is not just about the story

It’s also about the basket.

You notice what Wandering Aramean

God hears the cry of his people guy (at our Bible study this week we were talking about how long the crying of God’s people, in the case of Egypt it was close to 400 years)

But this God allows you to be generous

In that basket the people gave the first of what they are going to think about.

In doing this they remembered that life is a gift

And they don’t forget, the don’t forget the wandering Aramean cry-hearing God

When you are successful, every voice is around you is saying “forget” that God has heard

You will forget that life is a gift

And you have to do something else, you have to make yourself a little vulnerable

You have to reconnect with the ones who also cry

You have to give.

You have to fill the basket

Worship is always to be like this

It is to be the story part, and it is to be the gift part

It is why we use the word “Service”, this is where we serve

The word in Latin for worship, is Leitourgia, Liturgy, Work

It’s the same in Hebrew – Basar means work and worship

Here in Church we are thinking about doing one of these three things.

We would like to think about employing a youth and community worker

We would like to think about restarting our café

We would like to think about reshaping this sanctuary here

We might end up doing all three of these things

But we have to decide which order we are going to do these things

At the Board the other evening we discussed these and in April we are going to bring more refined proposals about the way forward

But in the Budget this year we are hoping to raise £17,000 which should hopefully enable one of these projects to be begun or started.

The basket is there in what we give

But it is also crucial that we reconnect our money with the people who are the people that are crying out.

These guys in Israel they forgot their Baskets

The prophets reminded the people

You have forgotten the basket

The firstfruit, the dangerous, risky offering that you give to God

You have forgotten that

You have become disconnected with God

And you have become disconnected with the ones who cry out

Amos says on God’s behalf

“I will strike the winter house along with the summer house,

And the houses of ivory shall perish

And the great houses shall come to an end, “ declares the Lord

Hear this word you cows of Bashan

Who are on the mountains of Samaria

Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy

Who way to your husbands

“Bring, that we may drink.” (Amos 3:15-4:1)

Live generously

This Lent we are invited into a time when we have less

When we connect more with the people around us

And we connect more with the God who hears our cry

It goes back to Jesus whose ministry began with forty days of going without

Of sacrifice

Of giving God the first of his time, in a way which was painful, and had no guarantee that he was getting anything back.

And that was the start.

And you are invited to join him

Remember God the wandering Aramean God, your story

And remember the basket, the thing that we offer to God.

Give much

That into your empty hearts, God will give you what you need.