Sermon Text: Ten Percenters
I have some interesting numbers for you.
Listen to a few statistics about Americans. I am not making these numbers up. They come from the Gallup Poll Organization. 74% of Americans claim to be Christians. 92% of homes in this country have a Bible. 59% say they read the Bible at least once in a while. 37% claim to read the Bible at least once a week. 60% of Americans say the Bible is totally accurate in all its teachings.
And that makes the next numbers more interesting. 58% could not name five of the Ten Commandments. Less than half know that the first book of the Bible is called “Genesis.” And — my favorite number — 12% believe that Joan of Arc is the name of Noah’s wife. Interesting numbers!
Here’s one more: according to the Bible, only 10% are thankful. Jesus heals ten lepers and only one comes back to say thanks. That sounds about right to me.
What do we hear these days in conversation, in the media, and in our culture? We hear anger, we hear worry, and we hear fear. We do not hear a lot of gratitude.
I have heard Eeyore more often than I’ve heard thankfulness. Remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? Here’s the classic excerpt: “Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it IS a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he. He went on to say, “I’m not complaining, but There It Is.”
I have met people like that. They would say they don’t need a calculator to count their blessings, because they don’t think they have any. That’s so sad on so many levels.
We need to remember what our moms taught us. If you’re a little kid and someone gives you a treat while your mom is there, you know what she’ll ask you. “What do you say?” And you say, “Thank you.” Why do we sometimes forget what our moms taught us? Our moms teach us to be grateful not just so we’ll be polite, important as that is. Our moms are also teaching us to be happy.
The grateful people are the happy people. We can forget this, but it’s true. The happiest people are not the ones who get what they like. The happiest people are the ones who like what they get. Gratitude reminds us of our blessings and enhances our enjoyment. The grateful people are the happy people.
Personally, I think Episcopalians should be happy people. Our central ritual is the Sunday Eucharist. Eucharist is the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” Episcopalians are all about thanksgiving, which should make us happy, really.
Life is good. The people who love us are such treasures. Being healthy is so wonderful. Recovering health after illness or injury is a blessing. Food and drink are delightful. The natural world can be a joy, and so can our companion animals. Accomplishing something important is a pleasure.
The list can be long. If we try, we can think of a lot of things to be grateful for. It’s a pretty good spiritual exercise.
Now, this time of the year, the church asks us to fill out a pledge card. It’s a financial commitment to St. Mark’s for next year. We are asked to continue to give money to support our church in its activities and services. The church needs money to operate, the Vestry needs the pledges to plan the budget, and it’s my job to remind you of that.
But we also do this because it’s a way to thank God. It’s not an easy lesson for us to learn, but giving money is a way to offer gratitude to God. “All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” If someone asked me how much they should give, I’d want to ask, “Well, it’s hard to say — how thankful are you?” This spiritual formula is simple but hard: Giving Equals Gratitude.
We don’t hear a lot of thankfulness expressed these days. We do hear a lot of anxiety. We do hear a lot of fear. We do hear complaining. Maybe there is something to that 90% thing. 90% of the people healed in Luke’s story failed to give thanks. Only one out of ten gave thanks.
Let’s be part of the Ten Percenters.
My daughter is. In spite of her troubles and disabilities, she is really good at saying “thank you.” Too good, sometimes.
Going to the dentist is hard for her. She does not like to sit still or be touched. But the whole time she’s in the chair, she says “thank you” every few seconds. It gets weird when they are cleaning her teeth or giving her a filling. Her mouth is open, and dental equipment is in there, and people are working on her teeth. And every few seconds she thanks them. It comes out “aa—ooo......aa-ooo...aa-ooo.” It breaks your heart and makes you laugh at the same time. My daughter truly is a grateful person.
There was a German mystic long ago named Meister Eckhart who said, “If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” He was a Ten Percenter.
Let’s be Ten Percenters. It’s how we end any service in the Episcopal Church:
Let us go forth in the Name of Christ...Thanks be to God.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord...Thanks be to God.
Let us bless the Lord...Thanks be to God, Alleluia, alleluia!
But do remember: Joan of Arc was NOT Noah’s wife.