All members to place their brought wrapped gift on the table. Then one by one choose a gift that you might like. When everyone has chosen a gift, the first person then swaps the gift they have chosen with someone else until everyone has swapped their gift. (You cannot hold onto the gift you have if someone wants it! You have to give it away and receive what you are given!) Continue this for another round of swaps. Then open the gift you
are left with. It is not about what you might choose, it is about being thankful for the gift you have been given.
Have a mini award ceremony for a bit of fun. You know the sort of thing ‘and the award for the best cup of tea goes to…’
We are constantly bombarded (whether we recognise it or not) with adverts telling us about the things we need, things that would make our life better or the things we need to do. Many adverts are predicated on the fact that there is something missing in our lives. I sometimes wonder what the effect of all this can be. The constant barrage telling us we need more must
contribute to the dissatisfaction we see in society. It is widely recognised that the countries where people report being the happiest are those countries where the gap between the richest and the poorest in society is
not too wide.
There is a song which probably inspired this session that says ‘content whatever lot I see, for ‘tis the Lord that leadeth me.’ Now the line is not ‘whatever I see’ but ‘whatever lot I see’ and they are two very different
things. The word ‘lot’ in this instance would equate to words such as ration, portion, share, allowance, and ‘see’ to imagine, envision or foresee. In short, ‘content – whatever I have or am going to have’. It is very personal.
When addressing the church at Phillipi, Paul writes:
‘…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.’
Philippians 4:11b, 12
If you consider some of the experiences Paul went through and the sort of ministry that he undertook this is quite some statement. There were almost certainly times when Paul was hungry and with no fixed income and yet he was still able to say that he was content. In saying this Paul experiences something that many people in our society search for in vain – contentment.
There are many reasons why people feel discontented. Maybe one reason is this – we think we live in a meritocracy where people get what they deserve. But this clearly is not the case.
There may be a tendency as we get older to worry that we will not have enough resources to see us into our ‘old age’ and as a result we can become fixated on the accumulation of ‘stuff’. We sometimes fail to trust God for our provision because the constant message that we hear is ‘it’s never enough’. Try and tune into the voice of God which simply states ‘I will provide’. God knows what is best for our eternal soul.
The other thing that people get a bit obsessed with is recognition. We like to be recognised for the accomplishments that we have achieved. However, the reality is that we have all made some contribution to our communities (family, church, employment etc.) but not everyone gets the recognition. There are some who feel that they have been overlooked in what we might
call ‘the everyday gong ceremonies of life’ yet can you name any of the winners of this year’s Oscars, or Baftas? So maybe learn the message that ‘recognition and fame is an illusion’.
There are some for whom the hurt of not being recognised has impacted them in a negative way and a discontentment has arisen because they do not feel valued by a community they feel they have given much to. Think for a moment on these words by Henri Nouwen:
‘Every time you feel hurt, offended or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I
am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace.’
from Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
List them, and thank God that you had the opportunity to do them, thank God for the blessing that they were to others, then consign them to things that have been recognised and accounted for within the Kingdom of God – mark them as ‘Paid in Full’. For God is no man’s debtor.
Make a sober assessment of what you need and what you have.