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Looking for that Greener Grass - By Pastor Thomas Engel


Hearing the readings for today, we see that we are having Thanksgiving in August.

But, for today, the menu is simple. We are having bread, water, and not a big turkey, but little birds.

Sorry, no mountains of mashed potatoes with an ocean of gravy, no green bean casserole, or herbal stuffing. I better stop there with the list of Thanksgiving delights because I’m making myself hungry.

Although we are having a simple meal today, I can provide a good argument for keeping it simple.

For my sister’s 60th birthday, we celebrated it at an Italian restaurant. The waiter brought out a basket of different kinds of homemade bread. My niece said she could just make a meal out of that bread.

One of my favorite photographs entitled, “Grace,” is of an elderly man who was praying over a simple meal of a bowl of oatmeal and a loaf of bread.

That photograph prompts a question for me, “How much food do I need to be content?”

Is a meal about getting my tummy stuffed everyday like I do at Thanksgiving, or I am good with a daily food menu of the basics?

With the rising costs of food, I was disappointed to learn from a recent news report that my three basics are having the sharpest increases-ice cream, bacon, and beer.

The most frequent question in families is, “What’s for dinner?” Does each kid get his or her favorite, or do you eat what is placed in front of you?

And so far, we’ve been talking about food. How about the other basics, like shelter and clothing?

How much of a house do we need to shelter us? I like the idea of making a house a home. But how many things are needed to make a home cozy?

And how about clothing? We dress for success and to make good first impressions, so do we need designer brands or is our life-style determined by what is on sale at the superstore?

I knew a man who always wore a Fedora that was pinched in the center perfectly right. He said that wearing a hat gave him instant respect by others.

I have to say that he did look cool.

But, how much do we need in order to be “somebody?”

Is life about “stuff” that gives us status or is it about something else?

I remember having a conversation with a woman, whom I soon came to see in the conversation that she was a very kind and charitable person.

This woman, who had done well in life, gave to organizations from animal shelters to those that supported veterans.

And not only did she give money, but she showed up to participate with her time and hands. She was a person who was not afraid to roll up her sleeves to help out.

In our conversation, she talked about how she saw how many people throughout the world were living in poverty, and she felt a desire to help others who were less fortunate than herself.

But, in hearing what this woman was saying, and I’ve heard it said by many others, too, a red flag was trying to pop up in my mind that likes to ask questions when I hear general statements like, “We need to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

When it comes to helping others who are obviously lacking, we should just do it.

I am all for spontaneous help. If we see a person struggling in some way, we should help.

We are always to be Good Samaritans.

Maybe, we can analyze this too much and get into too many different angles at this subject of the “stuff” that a person needs to have a good life.

But, if you don’t mind, I’m stuck on the word “fortunate.”

Who says that those who are “fortunate” with a lot of “stuff” are the only ones with good lives?

“How much stuff does a person need to be “fortunate?”

How true is it that some people are just born more “fortunate” than others?

If it is so true, how is that so? Why is that so?

But, taking that we do agree that we are always to be helping others, who can be anyone of us, for anyone can get in an crisis, let’s put some thought into what it takes for all people of the world in all situations to have a good life.

Let’s hear this statement: Some people are born to be doomed from the start and are meant to have miserable lives.

That’s a very sad statement. I don’t want to think that’s true, but, from what we see in the world, it seems to be a reality.

What we are getting into are the lives of people in a world of so many circumstances.

I’m not sure what we can do about the world. We will come back to the world in a minute, but let’s first think about what is happening in our lives at this moment.

What do you think is right or what is wrong in your life right now?

What’s easy? What’s difficult?

What’s causing you pain? What’s causing you heartache?

What’s making you feel good?

What would you like to be added? what would you like to have subtracted?

What do you want changed? What has changed that you want to go back to-you know-those good old days?

It seems that we are always in “if only” stages. If only this or that happens, I will be so happy.

Sometimes we do get our wish, but those wishes have their way of running out.

Even for the “fortunate,” life has its stages of ups and downs.

I’m not sure I would trade my life with a celebrity who has a drug addiction.

When it comes to life, it seems some subjects have two sides.

Trying to make life full and complete has definitely two sides.

Going to “the other side of the mountain,” hoping for something that is “somewhere over the rainbow,” and looking for that “greener grass” is a good thing.

Humans have a natural insatiable curiosity about the world around us and the sky above us.

Although, to say, I won’t be going on the next space tourism flight, but, not because I don’t want to. It’s because of my budget that does not have the extra thousands and thousands of dollars that it costs for a ticket.

I would like to see first hand at what all the infinite number of stars look like from the advantage point that is far above the clouds-talk about awesome!

When the ticket for space flight gets down to the hundreds, I’m there.

We are to eagerly desire discovering new things and have a sense of adventure about us. Like an Olympic athlete going for the gold, we are to stretch things and break molds to see how far we can go.

It’s called ambition. What are your goals and desires? What’s empty that needs to be filled? What’s your passion? What gives you hope?

On the other hand, can I tell you that your life, as it is, is okay? I know I don’t know the details of your life, but I can boldly say that you are okay, right now, this very minute.

You don’t have to make any changes and nothing needs to pop into your life right now in order for you to be content.

In talking about changes, life is always changing any ways, but I can still say life is more than okay as it is right now.

And not only can I say your life is more than okay as it is, but more importantly, you can say it to yourself, and then, you can say it to others who are struggling in life.

Our bodies and minds will go through hard times, but we need to remember that we have a third part to us, our hearts.

We know that God will provide food, shelter, and clothing. God also provides for our hearts.

God will come to our hearts, but, often, He literally comes to us first through our tummies.

God meets us where we are at in life.

The Israelites were in the wilderness, and they were hungry, so they complained to Moses. We are told that complaining never gets you anywhere.

But, God had such compassion for the people that He delivered to the people the food that they needed for every day, so they would learn to trust Him.

Jesus is the new Moses. When Jesus saw people who needed food, He did it right. In prayer, he asked the Father for a blessing, and, then, the five thousand people, who came to hear him teach about God’s kingdom, were fed.

By filling their tummies, Jesus was trying to fill their hearts with faith in Him as their Lord and Savior.

Jesus asks the Father and the Father gives. The Father is always willing to give what is asked sincerely in the name of His Son, for Jesus is the faithful Son, who was obedient in all things, even to death.

We are perfectly right now because Jesus is in our hearts. We have all that Jesus has, especially the victory that he won for us over all that wants to harm us by his death and resurrection.

God sent bread to fall from the sky and gave the Israelites water from a rock.

God helped in the way that only He could do it.

In this day, God comes to us in ways that only He can come.

Through water with His Word, God makes us His beloved children.

Through bread and wine, again, with His Word, God gives us the very body and blood of Jesus that forgives every sin and fills us with strength.

In His Word, God has everything for us from promises that He will always provide for us to giving us guidance in this life.

Do you see what is happening here? God comes to us with ordinary things and His powerful Word to accomplish all that we need, even something so ordinary as a cross that gives us our most needed thing-salvation.

Now, to talk about poverty in the world because we want to know if God does provide, why so people suffer?

The suffering that we see in the world is because of injustices, and those injustices are a result of sin like greed and egos seeking power to take control.

Scripture says it’s difficult for the rich to get into heaven.

Some people look for too much for themselves, but we also have to see that some people look for too little for themselves.

We also have to see the sin of slothfulness, laziness, and indolence.

Scripture says that if you don’t work, you don’t eat.

In seeing this troubled world, to our credit, we try to fix it, but, in our fixing, we are more likely to just mess it up more because as sinful humans we have a tendency to point to blame and complain a lot to each other that does get us nowhere.

At least, the Israelites complained to Moses, people today don’t have much of a thought about God.

I’ve heard it said recently that the government has a lot on its plate. Yes, governments have their role and so does science, but they need to put what’s on their plates on God’s table.

Don’t get tripped up on how simple it all is. To solve the sufferings in the world, Jesus taught a little prayer, “Give us our daily bread.”

Jesus is the new Moses, so people in the world need to be the New Israel.

All that nations have to do is pray it and believe it, and those places of suffering will receive what is needed.

We believe God is active and at work in our lives and in the world as He desires for His purposes.

All we need to do is to turn to Him in trust and believe that God is always working by His mercy and grace.

My favorite novel is Hemingway’s The Old man and the Sea. It has a lot of life lessons in it like perseverance, like how we need to keep going even when we are in way over our heads.

The man lives a simple life in a little hut by the sea and fishes every day. For me, and to each his own, that sounds like a retirement plan. Because I haven’t saved much for my old age, but, even if I had a robust financial portfolio, I like that idea of a simple life for the end of my days.

In those quiet days of fishing, I will be thinking of that one day when God makes a new heaven and new earth, and I will be seeing green grass, the greenest grass ever.

And a clear pond with me fishing in it for all of eternity with my dad, brother, and Uncle Hank who are already there.

With that image in mind, I’m more than okay in my days, whatever those days are dishing out.

Living by faith with those thoughts of the greenest grass of heaven, we are more than okay in this day of the green grass of God’s daily blessings.



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