Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sermon given as guest speaker at Arena Congregational Church Oct 21
An Attitude of Gratitude

Psalm 100
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2     Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Philippians 4:4-9
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 Andthe peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.


Do you have a favorite tool? 

I follow this rule—if it does not move, and should- use WD-40!
If it moves and shouldn’t—use Duct Tape!

You know, scientists who study behavior in animals say that the use of tools is one of the key definitions of intelligence. So, no matter what sort of tools you use every day, remember, you are being intelligent!

We have tools for our inner life too. For our spiritual, emotional lives. And I want to share with you one of the most powerful tools there is!  It is the tool of gratitude! Of giving thanks every day for the many many blessings we have, and through this thanksgiving, becoming even more aware of our blessings. This tool is the Attitude of Gratitude.

We see Gratitude all thru Scriptures. Especially in the psalms. Our passage today, Ps 100 is a prime example. As you remember, the psalms were hymns sung by the Jewish people on various occasions. This one was a song that was likely sung as people entered the temple for a worship service. Let’s look at our passage for a moment.

Shout for joy, to the Lord! Not to one another, not to the earth, but to our creator! And all the earth should rejoice like this. All of God’s creation needs to celebrate!

And yes, in addition to rejoice, we worship. And worship with gladness and with joyful songs. Worship happily, not out of duty but out of the joy of living. Living in community-in relationship with God and with each other, as we were created to be!

The Lord is God. He is the supreme being. AND He made us and we are his. We are his children! Or his sheep as the psalmist says. I used to really dislike the whole sheep metaphor. After all, sheep are not the brightest of animals! But then I found out that sheep have terrible trouble sleeping. Everything has to be just right for them, quiet place, nice soft grass to lay on, no insects, no scent of predators…or they have insomnia! (Do sheep with insomnia count people?)
As someone who has had insomnia for years, I realized that maybe we are closer to sheep than we like to think! So we are the sheep of God’s pasture.

so because he created all the earth, and we are his and his alone! We live and love with thanksgiving as God's beloved children and for the chance to worship, give thanks and praise him!

God is good, all the time. His love goes on forever…not just God but his love! For you and me and for all of his creation! And he is always the same, loving and faithful, through all generations. For all of us, forever. Isn't that wonderful!?

I love how this psalm is so lively, in just a few verses, you can really get a sense of a deep down joy-joy in being alive and in being a child of God, and deeply thankful to God for life and the opportunity to worship.
This is the sort of feeling is a true “attitude of gratitude”.

The Apostle Paul writes about this attitude in the letter to Philippians.

(READ new testament lesson)

Paul wrote these beautiful words of gratitude and hope while he was imprisoned!
We can not help but be struck by the depth of joy and confidence in the Lord expressed in this passage and throughout this letter.
Rejoice in the Lord! Could Paul have been singing psalm 100 to himself as he wrote? We can rejoice in the Lord every day as we go about our lives. The Lord is at hand, Paul writes. The Lord is everywhere, not just in hand! As close as can be. What a comfort that is!
So...don't be anxious! Don't worry and fret...take your worries, your concerns to God, in prayer, Thanking God for God's presence and compassion, and give all of your cares to The Lord. And the Peace of God will guard your hearts and minds---it will protect you from your worries!

The Peace of God-- the Hebrew word is Shalom. Shalom means peace, but much more ..Peace is of course an absence of unrest...The idea of shalom also means “wellness,” “completeness,” “perfection,” “safety,” “soundness,” “success,” “wholeness,” “health,” and good relationships between people—all people! When there is shalom, everything is as it should be, our lives are as God meant them to be, our world is in the order he intended.
Shalom, that peace that passes understanding, is the gift of God, the God of Love, who promises to be with us always! No matter what we may go through, God is with us.
and then Paul goes on to guide us how to keep that Peace in our hearts and “thinking on these things.” “whatever is true, honorable, just, whatever is pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise”
these are qualities of God. Thinking on these things can help replace the “junk' that separates us from God. Thinking on these things helps us focus on God, help the Light of God's love shine in us, and out to others!

Jesus embodied these qualities of God, indeed Jesus said, do not worry about tomorrow, today has enough trouble of its own! Perhaps Paul had that lesson in mind as he wrote these words. And he taught us just how to live out those words. Keeping the qualities of God in mind, with gratitude, praying with thanks.

Our pilgrim forebears had this whole idea down pat. Over the years, we have gotten this idea that the Pilgrims were stern, rather mean-spirited people. That just isn't so. They loved God and loved one another as well as they possibly could. They had a strong work ethic, that was based in their gratitude to God for providing life, home, family and so on. One worked because it was taught in the Scriptures, and because in working, one was caring for all that had been given by God. and when they worked, they felt grateful to be able to work. They were grateful to have the tools to work well, and the ability to use them! They were deeply thankful people.

Being grateful for things in life, large and small, is as I said, a powerful tool for our lives. Gratitude can actually help you to “re-program’ your brain out of negative thought patterns. Now some people tend to see the glass as half full, some do not! By practicing gratitude, you can become a glass half full person!
I know this…by personal experience! And there have been scientific studies. People were asked to keep a Gratitude Journal.-a daily diary, where they were to write down things for which they were grateful.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. {The researchers} also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another. 1

I want to challenge you to try this-- write down something each day. Big things or small- the sound of a bird, or a child’s laugh! Or seeing the colors of the sunrise or sunset. And the ability to see. Or having a home. Having family, church family!

Now I have to admit, sometimes it is hard to see something for which to be grateful! There is a story of the little girl who hated certain vegetables. When asked to say the blessing, she refused, saying, “The Lord knows I’m not thankful for brussel sprouts.” Her mother told her she couldn’t leave the table until she thanked God for something. The little girl bowed her head and said, “Lord, I’m thankful this stuff didn’t make me sick. Amen!”

Each day brings something for which we can say thank you to God. and the more often we remember to say thank you for blessings, the more we recognize how blessed we are. And in so doing, we grow closer to God. When we focus on our blessings, we learn to see things as God sees them. And we learn to find God’s presence in those around us, in ourselves, and in the world. Having an attitude of Gratitude, is training yourself to find God. To find God every day, everywhere! In yourself and in others! This awareness of the presence of God in everything and is what the Pilgrims knew so well. This awareness is recognizing that you are a gift! That each of us is a gift-and that all we have is a gift—a gift given out of love. Out of the greatest love of all, the love of God. This is a gift to celebrate today, and every day! And the greatest gift of all, given by God to one of us, is His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have God within. Give thanks today-and every day- for Him and for his blessings to you.


1 Study by Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, quoted by The Osgood File on the CBS Radio Network.

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