November 25, 2020
“Taken for Granted?”
Exodus 16:1-4; 17:1-7
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
She was tired of being taken for granted. So – she went on strike. A few years ago Jessica Stilwell, a Calgary, Alberta mother of 12-year-old twin daughters and a 10-year-old daughter went on strike. When she went on strike she didn’t post a sign in the front yard, nor did she call up the TV station to get publicity but she just stopped doing what her daughters should have been doing.
Jessica already had a full time job as a social worker and she and her husband, Dylan, expected the girls to do their part. They were to make their beds, clean their rooms and empty their lunch boxes following the school day. They were to bring their dirty laundry to the laundry room and sort it by colors. Nothing overwhelming!! But they just wouldn’t do it. And she got tired of nagging. So instead of constantly reminding them what they were to do she stopped telling them what to do and stopped doing it for them.
Jessica is a self described neat freak. It pained her to stop doing the kids dishes and picking up after them and cleaning out their lunch boxes. Jessica said, “I realized I was doing my own children a dis-service. I was setting them up for failure. I fear we are raising a generation of young people whose attitudes will be ‘What are you going to do for me?’”
Jessica and her husband Dylan did this for six days. When the girls weren’t inspired to wash the dishes, the family dog did pitch in. “If you leave the dishwasher open all day with dirty dishes, the extra large dog will eventually lick the entire thing clean”, wrote Jessica. Jessica continued to make them their lunches but because they didn’t clean out their lunch boxes she had to find something else to use to hold their food. Eventually she was down to the dog poop bags (new and unused, of course). The girls didn’t especially like it, but they got used to it.
But after 6 days the girls had had enough!! The girls were disgusted with the mess in the house and started to blame each other for this house that now looked like a dump. When mom and dad sat them down and explained what the week was all about they began to see things differently. In the end, the three girls acknowledged how much their mom does for them and thanked her for it. Then, they made her coffee and began cleaning up the house (though gagging and grumbling while doing it).
I don’t think that Jessica Stilwell is the first mother who has been taken for granted and she won’t be the last one. I bet we have a roomful of mothers who have been taken for granted. I bet we have a roomful of folks who have taken them for granted.
But it isn’t only motherhood that has that distinction. Some marriages hit the wall when the husband just takes his wife for granted. And it happens just as often when the wife will take her husband for granted. We grow in a relationship just expecting that they will always be there for us and we forget to be thankful and appreciative for all they do for us. But nobody likes to be taken for granted!!
Even God!! In the Gospel reading for today (Luke 17:11-19) we read about Jesus healing 10 men who had leprosy. That disease was going to eventually take their life. At the present those 10 lepers were isolated from family and lived a life of lonely hopelessness. But Jesus, in an instant, healed them. But the reaction he got from 90% of them was not a very thankful response. They didn’t even stop to thank Him for this life changing miracle. Only one, a Samaritan, came back to thank Him. Jesus was taken for granted!!
When I read the account in the Old Testament about Moses and the miracles God worked among the people of Israel I see that they took God for granted. The people of Israel had already seen the hand of God in one miracle after the other. On the initial Passover evening God protected every Israelite who had the doors of their houses covered by the blood of a lamb. The angel of death “passed over” their house with His protecting hand. (See Exodus 12:1-31) Pharaoh told them to leave Egypt. Finally slavery was over. Finally they could head to their own land. God had even opened up the Red Sea and they walked through on dry ground, but when Pharaoh and his army pursued them, the sea collapsed. Miracle!! But 45 days into their journey they forgot what God could do. In Exodus 16 this is their word, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly!” (Exodus 16:3) I got a feeling that things in Egypt weren’t quite as good as that!! So what does God do? He sends Manna from heaven. Bread every morning. Quail every evening. Generous. Gracious. Merciful.
But we only get a few words down the road when the problem became water. “So they quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’” (Exodus 17:2a) “They said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’” (Exodus 17:3b) God’s answer? Water from a rock!! Miracle!! Generous. Gracious. Merciful.
Their response? They didn’t like what was on the menu everyday!! “There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food.” (Numbers 21:5b) That probably sounds like us if we are still eating turkey next Monday!!
Taken for granted!! God is taken for granted. God’s great miracles become common. We don’t give a second thought to the air we breathe, that water we drink or the sun that shines. Yet God had to think long and hard as to how they would all work. We take for granted the places He gives us to live and the abilities He gives us to make a living and the ordinary things that make up life.
But what is worse than taking all of this that comes from the good hand of God for granted, is for us to think that we have deserved such things from God!! We realize, as Christians, that all of life is a gift much better than we deserve!! Psalm 103 says this – “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8-12)
My message to you today is quite simply – Don’t take this for granted. Too many people have taken their marriage for granted and have regretted such an attitude. Too many folks have taken their health for granted until it was too late. Too many have taken family, friendships, their jobs, or the basic things in life for granted only to know later what they lost!!
Thank God for all of His gifts so generously given. For things little and things big; for the ordinary and the miraculous, we thank God. For the gifts of family and marriage and health, for our homes and food and places of employment, we thank God!!
God made us unique, on purpose and for a purpose. Thank Him!! Into our lives that have way too much sin, He desires the heart to be broken in repentance so that it can be turned toward Him. Thank Him!! For the sake of Jesus Christ, by His atoning death and strong resurrection we are forgiven and cleansed. We are His brand new creation. Thank Him!! We are people claimed in Baptism and invited to the meal of Christ’s body and blood. Thank Him!! We are filled with God’s Holy Spirit, filled with great power so we can do His will every day of our life. Thank Him!! And one great day the greatest day of our life will begin. The one who tells us, “Behold I am making everything new!” says, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:5a, 4) Thank Him!!
Jessica Stilwell, our Calgary, Alberta mom said, “I have GREAT kids. I mean, they are really cool little people and I am very proud of them for a multitude of reasons. And kinda proud of myself that I built them…I want to give them the world.” And she did. She gave them a world where things are not taken for granted but received with thanks.
Today receive all the gifts from God with joy and gratitude in your hearts. Amen!!
(This sermon came to the Ascension community originally on November 26, 2014)