Preparing for this service I looked at the Samaritan’s Purse website, reading stories of children who received shoeboxes.
eg. story of little girl in Guinea Bissau who used to carry a stick as he pretend baby on her back, so she could look like her mother. When OCC came to her village, she opened her shoebox, and there was a doll. So now she was really like her mother – and that made her happy. Or the happiness that the simple basics of school equipment – pencils, pens and paper – can bring in some of the former Russian republics where children have to provide all their own supplies. Or most inspiring of all, the story of Sasha from Belarus, who gave away his own full box of goodies to another unhappy child who had missed the distribution, to make them happy.
Such simple things can make a child happy.
What I wonder makes you happy. Is there anything you don’t have that would make you happy. Would you like to talk about it for a while with the people sitting near to you.
Anyone want to share?
Jesus said some strange things – especially in the passage we know as the Beatitudes about what brings happiness – being poor, hungry, weeping, hated, reviled & excluded. These are some of the things that people should rejoice over in the Kingdom of God.
We’ll look later at a story from Luke’s Gospel about a person who was made happy by Jesus’s presence.
But having considered what makes you happy, I wonder if we could think for a moment about what makes God happy.
There are some clues in the OT lesson set for today – and it’s not what some people would imagine. Through the prophet Isaiah God speaks to the people of Israel. (Isaiah 1, 10-18)
It’s clear that worship is not making God happy:
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
God couldn’t sound much more cheesed off!
It’s only at the end of the passage that the prophet reveals what will make God happy:
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
It’s not worship, however splendid, it’s sharing in God’s care for the oppressed, Isaiah says, that will make God happy. And that’s the message of Luke too.
Your contributions, which we are going to receive now to Operation Christmas Child will do that. But there are other opportunities closer to home and throughout the year, to serve those who are hungry or lonely or sick, or rejected, and make them happy, and please God during the year. As our reading from the letter to Thessalonia says “accomplishing all the good things
your faith prompts you to do”
Perhaps during the Fellowship break, and during the week, you could think about how you can play your part in that work, how you too can make God happy.