First Baptist Church · August 31, 2014
Back in October of 1967, singers Tammy Wynette and David Houston combined for a duet that went to number 1 on the country music charts. The song which would go on to be covered by other artists of the era like Andy Williams, The Everly Brothers, Nancy Sinatra and Bobby Vinton, was called My Elusive Dreams. If you happen to remember that track then you may recall that the song is the story of a couple struggling to find contentment. With each passing verse, they travel all over the United States looking for happiness. In all, the song mentions their travels to six states (Utah, Tennessee, Alabama, Nebraska, Texas and Alaska) as well as to three cities (Birmingham, Nashville and Memphis) all in search of their dreams. The verses of the song end with the same haunting refrain “we didn’t find it there, so we moved on.” (“My Elusive Dreams” entry on Wikipedia.com)
No one knows why the song went to number 1 for Wynette and Houston or why numerous other artists chose to record it. But, if I had to guess, I would say the reason is simple. It is because so many of us can so easily relate to the message. Almost all of us in this sanctuary today who have lived much of life know what it is like to chase our dreams or to chase after happiness. We know what it is like to become convinced that reaching a certain financial threshold, having a certain job, being included in a particular group or accomplishing a long held life goal will finally bring us the happiness, peace of mind and joy we have always longed for and dreamed about. Yet, we also know what it is like to wake up and discover that even when we have reached those places that the same worries, uncertainties, inadequacies and restlessness continue to haunt us.
Perhaps in 2014, we could argue that as a result, one of the most helpful and needed Proverbs of our time is the one that we end our summer series with today which simply encourages us to discover a peace of mind in our beings — that is to say to become content with who we are and where we are in life. For the warning of this Proverb is that as long as we are always envious of others, jealous of what we don’t have or longing for something else, we will never find a way to enjoy the life that is right in front of us. Envy, jealousy or a lack of contentment, like a cancer or a rotting of the bones, steals away the very life we have.
What Proverbs 14:30 doesn’t mention is what we all affirm week after week as we come to church. The ability to be content and the ability to be at peace with where we are and with what we have is born out of our relationship with God through Christ. What Jesus teaches us is that knowing him is the best gift that we can ever have and that life as his child is the greatest work we can ever be about.
Likewise, Jesus consistently teaches us that all that we are and all that we have are a result of God’s grace. It is not ours because we deserve it. It is merely ours because we have been given it as a gift.
If we can find a way to live in light of these truths, we will find contentment with where we are rather than being worried about where we are not. And, we will find a way to enjoy the life we already have rather than chasing after what we will never, ever get.
I want you to know this morning that I love the imagery of this verse in connection with the act of Communion. I really had never thought about the perfect harmony between the two until preparing for this day in worship but the two ideas of contentment and communion go hand in hand. Let me say it this way. Most of us in this room are either natives of the South or we have lived in this region for most of our lives. This means that by and large we love to cook and to eat. This means that as a good Baptist minister I don’t preach on the subject of gluttony very often!! And, it means that we know what it is like to gather with friends or family for Sunday lunch or a Labor Day barbeque or a fall Saturday tailgate and be surrounded by people we love and wonderful food to enjoy. In turn, we know the feeling of reaching the end of that gathering, being full from the food, full from the fellowship and saying “it doesn’t get any better than this”.
This table calls us to experience that same contentment — not a contentment that is fleeting but a contentment that can sustain us for life. This table calls us to feast on God through our relationship with Christ every day and to again reaffirm that this cup and this bread provides us the ultimate satisfaction for the hunger of our hearts and our souls. This table calls us to eat the bread, to drink the cup and to be satisfied. Amen.