The Call for a Grateful Generation

Soon, we will lay to rest the last of those termed the “Greatest Generation.” In our congregation these past several years, we have said good-bye to more than a few folks, most in their 90’s, who grew up and lived through much of a tumultuous 20th century — the Depression, World War II and its aftermath, the Cold War, complex global economies, unprecedented social change.

We rejoice in this generation who fought the good fight and kept the faith through any and all circumstances.

(John Weiss’ The Greatest Generation)

So, where and when and who are the next “greatest generation?” There is no question that God gives each generation gifts and challenges.

We, all of us, certainly have our challenges today. Are we grateful for our gifts? Certainly we have our gifts, too.

Perhaps we have a tendency to idealize these folks, but one trait I observed and admired many times in many of this Greatest Generation has been an ever-present gratitude. Having survived so much, these senior saints, at their best, have modeled a genuine, deep sense of satisfaction and appreciation for life’s simple, abundant pleasures.

So, as we consider the world’s challenges — accelerating and unsettling but often needed social change, polarizing talking heads, terrorism, fundamentalism, economic inequality, fanaticism, aging and age-ism, and on and on — what makes a generation “great” in confronting such seemingly overwhelming forces?

Jesus really, really stressed that whoever would be counted greatest of all must be the servant of all. And such self-giving goes right along with and grows out of thanksgiving.

In Christ Jesus, a God of great majesty and undying love calls for a grateful generation. Here’s a humble service which we are all capable of giving — thanks-giving.

Want to sound a note of calm amid all the chaos? Give some thought to how you thank others and make that extra call or write that extra note. Make that extra effort not to give in to hate. Thank God for so many chances — every day, everywhere we are – to help, to encourage, to make the world a little better — one more prayer petition, one dollar more of support, one more moment of attentive listening.

Want to strike a blow against terrorism? Thank a service man or woman or a first responder or a teacher or a civil servant. Do so quietly, privately, with no concern for a charitable deduction or a plaque.

Or, for that matter, reinforce the fabric of a just and fair society by tipping your waitress a little extra. Or buy a few extra items every trip to the grocery store and give those items to a food pantry. Do your part to right the world right where you are.

Want to prevent an attitude of entitlement in ourselves and others? Practice extravagant generosity and not extreme self-indulgence. Pray about the enjoyment you may give and receive if you volunteer with church or charity instead of frenetically seeking one more in an endless and repetitive stream of parties or cruises or leisure escapes. Substitute a porch swing and sunset for high-end and one-after-the-other vacations. (Frankly, you may enjoy leisure activities even more when you indulge in them a bit less.)

The Greatest Generation was mustered to fight hardship and tyranny. And so are we.

The world has more than enough messes, “hot” or otherwise. The Lord is calling for a grateful generation to clean things up.

The Gospel of Sufficiency

How much is enough?

On occasion, I teasingly describe a new restaurant coming to town. Diners will be able to heap huge portions on oversized plates from a record-length buffet loaded with all variety of meats, side dishes, and desserts. Then, as you prepare to take your food to your table, restaurant staff will carefully remove from your plate all but sufficient amounts of the healthiest foods.

That’s right. It’s the ALL YOU SHOULD EAT Buffet.

In truth, many of us are not the best judges and self-regulators of what constitutes an ample portion. Some of us have sampled seconds and thirds more than once.

This “portion distortion,” as it has been called, speaks to over indulgence and conspicuous consumption in any areas of life, not just meals.

The Bible is replete/full/stuffed/overflowing with stories and assurances that God graciously provide for our needs. In Exodus 16, after delivering the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, God responds to their anxieties in the EAT WHAT YOU CAN FIND Sinai wilderness –

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As recalled by the Psalmist:

Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven;

God rained down on them manna to eat… and sent them food in abundance.

… God rained flesh upon them… winged birds like the sands of the seas;

And they ate and were filled… (Psalm 78)

In sending them manna and quail, God commanded them only to gather “enough for that day.” This was a test of their trust in God to supply their daily needs.

So how much is enough? Our answer, whether we are considering food or clothes or leisure time or work or any commodity is affected when we factor in God’s promises. The Bible is replete/full/stuffed/overflowing with stories and assurances that God graciously provides for our needs.

Jesus preaches on the Mount: indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things… (Matthew 6:32). Truly, God’s promise in creation and through Christ is abundance. Abundant life is sustained by trusting God’s promise of sufficiency.

If we can trust this Gospel of Sufficiency, we may find we have more than enough for our needs, more than enough to share and meet the needs of someone else.

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