HEBREW BIBLE LESSON Psalm 103:1-13, 22
GOSPEL LESSON Luke 17:11-19
SERMON: “Rx for Grumpiness”
Any of you ever feel grumpy? Once in a while? Let me ask it differently. Any of you live with someone who gets grumpy – a spouse, a sibling, a child, a parent? When we were kids, my mom used to say it seemed as if “someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” I knew she couldn’t possibly be talking about me . . . I had a single bed, one side of which was up against the wall. There was no possible way to get out of bed on the “wrong side.” But we know that misses the point. Grumpy happens.
The story is told of two old friends bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked grumpy, just ready to snap. His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?” The cranky fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“But, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand free and clear.”
“Sounds like you’ve been blessed....”
“You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million.”
Now the friend was really confused. “Then, why do you look so grouchy?”
“This week... nothing!”
That’s the trouble with receiving something on a regular basis. Even if it is a gift, we eventually come to expect it. We are blessed to live in a land of plenty and as a result we tend to become complacent and neglect to give thanks to anyone for anything.
The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock over 300 years ago knew nothing of the affluent times which you and I enjoy today in this great country of ours. The next time you and I are tempted to complain about inflation and the state of our economy, remember that during that first long winter at Plymouth Colony, seven times as many graves were made for the dead as homes for the living.
The ship which was to bring food and relief brought 35 more mouths to feed, but not an ounce of provisions.
Touching indeed is the picture of William Brewster, rising from a scanty Plymouth dinner, consisting of a plate of clams and a glass of cold water, to thank God “for the abundance of the sea and the treasures hid in
The Pilgrims didn’t have much, but they possessed a great gratitude, not a bad thing for us to claim as our heritage.
One of their customs was to put 5 kernels of corn upon each empty plate before a dinner of “thanksgiving” was served. Each member of the family would pick up a kernel and tell what they were thankful for. It was to remind them that the first Pilgrims were in such dire straits that their allowance was only 5 kernels of corn per person each day.
The psalmist gives us a list of things we can be thankful for.
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins.”
Now and then someone will say, “I know it’s not a very Christian thing to do, but . . .” and then they tell you of some infraction. Perhaps they spread gossip. Maybe they held on to some anger, or told a lie, or kept something that didn’t belong to them. I’ve heard people say that they’re not a very good Christian, or maybe they make that claim about someone else – He or she wouldn’t do that if they were really Christian. Friends, there aren’t good Christians and bad Christians. There are people who do things they shouldn’t, knowingly or unknowingly, some of them pretty awful things, some of them minor. In fact every single one of us is guilty of disobedience and rebellion against God at times. “Bless the LORD, my soul, who forgives all your sins.”
”Bless the Lord, my soul, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” Really? I’ll bet you can think of someone, probably several people who have incurable diseases. I wanted to skip past this one, but then realized that first of all, God is able to heal all diseases. For reasons we sometimes do not know or understand, there are times when God does not do so. Thinking on this one a little more I remembered that in the end all our diseases will be healed. For some death is the final, complete and total healing. The Revelation of John tells us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that there will be no more suffering, no more tears.
Bless the Lord, my soul, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. The psalmist is talking to his soul. Quite likely, he is not talking about physical disease, but spiritual disease. Diseases of the soul originate in the virus of sin. Jesus identified the symptoms and disorders caused by sin in
Matt 15:19-20: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a person ‘unclean.’” We go to the doctor or hospital to find healing for our physical ailments, but it is God’s Holy Spirit that heals our spirits.
1 Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits--
3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
The Lord grants us love and compassion. It’s difficult, though not impossible, to be grumpy when we feel God’s love around us. I am convinced that when God fills us with love and compassion, it wants to spill over and spread to those around us.
Those who know me well know one thing that definitely makes me grumpy is my birthday. It’s not about getting older, because when you’ve had cancer three times you develop a sense of gratitude and pride at making another birthday. I don’t know all of the reasons why it affects me the way it does. Perhaps it’s a certainty that some hopes and expectations will not be met; it could be a tendency to ponder life and bucket list items not accomplished. It’s probably both of those and a few things I’m not going to share this morning. But I will share that this year I had the best birthday in years!
It wasn’t about getting amazing gifts or going out to dinner, or even reflection that I had accomplished much this past year. It was where I spent it.
Knowing that the Lord forgives all our sins – a great remedy for grumpiness.
Thankful for another year cancer-free – Gratitude is another great prescription for dealing with grumpiness. It’s next to impossible to be grumpy and grateful at the same time.
You know where I spent my birthday last September? Some of you do. I spent it at Detroit Children’s Hospital focusing, not on aging, not on things left undone, not on gifts I hoped to get. I spent it focused on the medical needs of a 12-year-old child and his family. It was the best birthday I’ve had in years as the love and compassion the Lord has showered on me spilled over and were shared with others.
Fears and anxieties are relieved when we accept from God the forgiveness of all our sins.
Opening ourselves to Christ and allowing him to heal the unclean thoughts and evil that haunt our souls, and being the one-in-ten who fills up on gratitude chases away grumpiness.
The best prescription, is allowing the love and compassion of God’s Spirit to surround us, fill us and spill over through us to others is the most effective prescription I know.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear [honor him, trust him, respect and revere] him.