The "Oh, Yeah" ... of Contentment

By: Candace Chellew-Hodge

Preached August 8, 2010 at Jubilee! Circle, Columbia, SC

Readings:
Psalm 33:12-22: "our heart is glad ..."
Luke 12:32-40: "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also"
  Hear this sermon at the Jubilee! Circle Web site.

The rock group R.E.M. got its start in Athens, Georgia in 1980 after singer Michael Stipe and guitarist Pete Buck met at a record store where Buck worked. Mike Mills and Bill Barry joined the band and they put out their first single in 1981. Tonight's song is Shiny Happy People from their 1991 CD "Out of Time." The song peaked at #10 on the Billboard charts and features Kate Pierson, who was a member of another Athens band, the B-52s.

Shiny happy people laughing
Meet me in the crowd, People, people
Throw your love around, Love me, love me
Take it into town, Happy, happy
Put it in the ground, Where the flowers grow, Gold and silver shine

(Chorus) Shiny happy people holding hands,
(Shiny happy people holding hands)
Shiny happy people laughing

So, what is it that makes you a shiny, happy person? What makes you utter the "Oh, Yeah ... of Contentment?"

Those ancient Hebrews, they knew a thing or two about contentment. They also knew a thing or two about discontent - they were all over that. They could bellyache with the best of them - complaining to God about the crappiness of their lives. But, they knew how to be shiny, happy people too.

"Our soul waits for the Lord," this ancient desert dwelling singer-songwriter croons. "God is our hope and shield. Our heart is glad in God, because we trust in her holy name."

And there, in that one sentence, is the whole underpinning of contentment. The only way we can ever utter the "Oh, Yeah" ... of Contentment ... is if we trust. Without trust, there can be no contentment.

I have to trust that my house is sturdy and won't fall in on me while I recline on the couch. I have to trust that the power company will keep the lights on so I can read. I have to trust that the cable company will keep my TV channels up and running - and my Internet for that matter. I have to trust that Magic Hat will keep producing my favorite beer. I have to trust that Facebook will always be around so I can post my daily Magic Hat wisdom to the delight of my more than 1,300 friends!

Without being able to trust in any of those things ... I can never be truly content. The difference here is that all those other things, my house, the power company, the cable company, even my beer company and Facebook all have the potential to fail me - to betray my trust.

But, this Hebrew bard assures us that God's steadfast love never fails.

"Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you."

This hope, this trust, is so deep that we trust that the sun will come up tomorrow and all shall be well. But we also trust that if the sun doesn't come up tomorrow - still all shall be well. God's love is steadfast - never failing - ready to be trusted into eternity. "Oh, Yeah."

Everyone around love them, love them
Put it in your hand, Take it, take it
There's no time to cry, Happy, happy
Put it in your heart, Where tomorrow shines, Gold and silver shine

Shiny happy people holding hands,
(Shiny happy people holding hands)
Shiny happy people laughing

"Bah-TACH" - say it with me - "bah-TACH" - that's the word used by our old timey songwriter - it means to trust, to be confident, to be secure, to be bold. It is that boldness that allows us to utter the "Oh, Yeah" ... of Contentment. When you're truly content, your "Oh, Yeah" won't be puny - it will be big, strong, and bold. "Bah-TACH!"

But, like all of these "Oh, Yeah" moments in this Via Positiva, this one is again a two way street with the Holy. We can't just say our "Oh, Yeah" ... of contentment ... even a bold "Oh, Yeah" ... without return that trust right back to the divine.

"Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him."

And, this is where the fundamentalists have a ball - because they use this line to make you shrink in fear from God, because God is angry and wrathful and will punish us if we don't live like the fundamentalists say we ought to live. But no, happily for us, that's not what this word means. We have nothing to "fear" from God. The Holy wants us to trust in her, not out of fear, but out of a sense of awe and reverence. When we do that, the holy puts his trust in us as well.

The psalmist sings that God's eye - God's "ah-yin" in the Hebrew - is on us. Now, that word means eye, but it also means - "presence." God's presence is with us when we "yah-RAY" or revere (not fear) God. When we trust in God, God trusts in us, by being present with us, by working in, through, and around us in this world.

Like the dance of giving and receiving in the "Oh, Yeah ... of Gratitude" - this is a similar dance - one of trust. All good dancers trust each other - with each dip and risky move they have to know the other will catch them, will bring them to the right spot, and will never, ever, let the go or let them fall.

Dancing is all about trust, and our dance with the Holy is one of ultimate trust - and one that always ends in an "Oh, Yeah" ... of contentment.

Breathe deeply.

James William Buffett was born on Christmas day in 1946. Buffett grew up down on the water in Mobile, Alabama and got his start in music in Nashville in the 60s. Some of his hits include Margaritaville, Come Monday, and the song we're doing tonight called Cheeseburger in Paradise - that was release in 1978. The song was inspored by a boat trip Buffett took to the Caribbean. While surviving on canned food and peanut butter he said he dreamed about "eating a piping hot cheeseburger." When he arrived in the British Virgin Islands, Buffett said he found a place that served cheeseburgers and even though he gave specific orders about what to put on it and how to cook it - they got overdone burgers. It didn't matter to Buffett who said they were "like manna from heaven, for they were the realization of my fantasy burgers on the trip."

Let's try it:

Tried to amend my carnivorous habits.
Made it nearly seventy days,
Losin' weight without speed-eatin' sunflower seeds,
Drinkin' lots of carrot juice and soakin' up rays.
But at night I'd have these wonderful dreams,
Some kind of sensuous treat.
Not zucchini, fettucini, bulgar wheat,
But a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat.

Cheeseburger in paradise.
Heaven on earth with an onion slice.
Not too particular, not too precise.
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.

Whether it's cheeseburgers that bring you that "Oh, Yeah" ... of contentment, or something else, we find Jesus talking about contentment to his disciples.

"Do not be afraid, little flock," he tells them, "for it is the Holy's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

The Holy longs to give us this amazing gift - the realm of God, where the "Oh, Yeah" of contentment is heard 24/7, because there is nothing to be discontent about.

The realm of God is not like this world. Here we're usually discontent 24/7. There's always something more we need, something more we want - something more to strive for. Very rarely do we stop to appreciate what we already have. Very rarely do we stop to appreciate the ancient words of the 4th century Greek philosopher Epicurus who said:

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."

What you have now are things you hoped for - what you have now, Jesus says, is what your heart has treasured in the past? Is it your treasure now? Can you be content right here, right now?

Our society conspires to keep us in discontent. TV commercials, print ads, they all show us the more that we can desire, the new treasures of our heart. We'll only be truly content if we have more of this, or more of that. We'll only be truly content when we look like this model, or dress like that celebrity. We'll only be truly content when keep up with the Joneses and have the latest technology, or cars, or clothes, or whatever new gizmo is in demand. The ad writers tell us we must acquire more and more stuff, or we'll never truly be content.

Yoga master Swami Sivananda reminds us: "There is no end of craving. Hence contentment alone is the best way to happiness. Therefore, acquire contentment."

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," said Jesus.

Jubilants, where is your heart tonight? What is it treasuring? Whatever that treasure is, is it grounded in trust in the holy - or trust in the things of this world?

Which one will make you utter the "Oh, Yeah" ... of true contentment?

Heard about the old time sailor men,
They eat the same thing again and again;
Warm beer and bread they said could raise the dead.
Well, it reminds me of the menu at a Holiday Inn.

But times have changed for sailors these days.
When I'm in port I get what I need;
Not just Havanas or bananas or daiquiris,
But that American creation on which I feed!

Cheeseburger in paradise,
medium rare with mustard be nice
Heaven on earth with an onion slice.
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.

Have you seen the commercial where the man is asleep in the bed with his dog - only the man is way over on a sliver of the side of the bed and the dog is taking up two-thirds of the bed? Later in that commercial, the man is on the floor - while the dog takes up the whole bed.

That commercial is a reminder that sometimes our contentment can be another person's (or another creature's) discontentment. We can be so enamored with our own comfort, our own ease, that achieving that ease can be at the expense of another person's ease and comfort.

The contentment we derive from cheap oil and gas causes ecological disasters like the one we see in the Gulf of Mexico, or the continuing despoiling of the Niger Delta by oil companies leaking crude into the water there. The contentment we gain from cheap products made overseas can lead to job losses here at home and the enslavement of low-wage workers who live in poverty to ensure big company profits.

Jesus says we must be careful in our contentment. "Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."

So, do you leave here and sell it all - becoming discontent so others can be content? No, that would just mean another person in poverty. What Jesus invites us to do is imagine a new relationship with our own wealth. If contentment can only happen if we have ultimate trust in the Holy - then how would that change how you view money? If you trusted the Holy with everything - and you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Holy would provide you with whatever you needed (but not all you want), how would it change your relationship with money? If your treasure was really contained in a divine purse that does not wear out, how would it change what you did with your money? Would you give more freely? Would you dare to give more than you have before, knowing that you can be content with whatever remains? Would you give it all away to acquire contentment?

Where is your heart tonight? Where is your treasure?

Can you really utter the "Oh, Yeah" ... of Contentment?

I like mine with lettuce and tomato,
Heinz 57 and french-fried potatoes
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer,
Well, good god Almighty which way do I steer

For my cheeseburger in paradise,
Makin' the best of every virtue and vice.
Worth every damn bit of sacrifice,
To get a cheeseburger in paradise;
To be a cheeseburger in paradise.
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.

Jubilants, the Holy has given us so much - and so much of what we have has been given to us on trust. God has entrusted us with great wealth - and not all of it is money.

We have a wealth of talent, a wealth of time, a wealth of generosity, a wealth of smiles, a wealth of a helping hand, a wealth of presence, of just being with one another, a wealth of community. We are a wealthy people.

God has given us a treasure - and the question you have to ask yourself is this: is your heart set on this treasure that the Holy has provided, or are you still chasing the things of the world that may satisfy for the moment, but like Chinese food, always leaves you hungry again, and chasing after still more and more and more and more?

God has entrusted us with great wealth, Jubilants. If there is a judgment day, I imagine God will want an accounting of how we've spent that wealth. Here are some of the questions you might want to prep for: Did you enjoy all that you were given? Did you make time for all the good things God wanted you to experience or did you take it all for granted? Did you share the good things that God gave you in trust with others around you so they, too, could benefit from that great wealth?

We can have a cheeseburger in paradise, my friends, but we must remember the one who created the paradise - the one who has entrusted us with that paradise. Are we good stewards of God's paradise? Are we making sure there are enough cheeseburgers to go around in this paradise, or are we only looking out for number one - pushing the others off the bed and onto the floor as we seek our own contentment?

The story is told of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. "Why aren't you out there fishing?" he asked.

"Because I've caught enough fish for today," said the fisherman.

"Why don't you catch more fish than you need?' the rich man asked.

"What would I do with them?"

"You could earn more money," came the impatient reply, "and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you'd have a fleet of boats and be rich like me."

The fisherman asked, "Then what would I do?"

"You could sit down and enjoy life," said the industrialist.

"What do you think I'm doing now?" the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea.

And I would add, as the industrialist walked away, the fisherman said boldly, "Oh, yeah."

I like mine with lettuce and tomato,
Heinz 57 and french-fried potatoes
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer
Well, good god Almighty which way do I steer

For my cheeseburger in paradise,
Makin' the best of every virtue and vice.
Worth every damn bit of sacrifice,
To get a cheeseburger in paradise;
To be a cheeseburger in paradise.
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.

Oh, Yeah!

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians. Her first book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass is now available at http://www.bulletproofbook.com. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches. She can be reached by email at editor-at-whosoever.org or by using the suggestion box.

Copyright by the author All Rights Reserved

Support Whosoever

Make a tax-deductible donation to support our work.

Donate to Whosoever

Is Your Faith Bulletproof?

Bulletproof Faith Cover

Endorsed by such religious leaders as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop John Shelby Spong and named one of the Best Spiritual Books of 2008, Whosoever founder Candace Chellew-Hodge's first book Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians is making an impact in the lives of LGBT Christians.

Get Your Copy Today!

Get Whosoever News in Your Email!


Become a
Rainbow Fish

Join Whosoever's regional groups and meet GLBT Christians in your area.

Podcasts

Subscribe to Whosoever's Podcasts

Whosoever Podcast link

Got a Suggestion?

If you have complaint, a compliment, a story idea or just need to vent, use our suggestion box.