Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Thanksgiving Message

As we take time as a nation to give thanks, it helps to remember the source of all that we are and all that we have. This Thanksgiving Eve sermon explores this idea based on Deuteronomy 8:7-18, and Luke 17:11-19.

Recorded on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Greenvine, TX.

 

Click the link to listen to the message or scroll down for the full manuscript:

http://www.spreaker.com/user/5989422/dirt-wilderness-and-the-unclean

 

Dirt, Wilderness, and the Unclean

A group of scientists were excited they finally had the ultimate breakthrough. They decided to tell God they didn’t need him any more.

“Oh really?” God asked them. “Are you sure you don’t need me for anything anymore?”

“We’re certain, God. We can do anything you can do. We can even make human life.”

“Okay,” God agreed. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll show you once how I do it and I’ll even let you take notes before you give it a try.”

And so God reached down and got a handful of dirt and right before their eyes he created a person.

“So you really think you can do that?”

“Just watch us, God!”

And so one of the scientists squatted down to pick up some dirt. As he handed it to another one of the scientists, God looked over his shoulder.

And God snatched the dirt from them and said, “Get your own dirt!”

 

It is often easy to take for granted what we have and what we can do when things are going well for us. We often continue to strive for yet more. And we frequently buy into the belief that we did it ourselves. Like those scientists, we may even fall into the trap of believing that we don’t even need God anymore.

But God is the one who provides. Even the dirt that we turn for crops or dig out to build our houses—even that is the Lord’s doing.

In our passage from Deuteronomy, the Israelites are being given land where they can live and thrive. But they are warned not to forget that it was God who brought them out of slavery, it was God who provided for them in the wilderness, and God himself gave them the ability to make a new life for themselves. They are reminded that when they have their new life in the land of plenty, “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’”

God is faithful to love and care for us, to provide for us. When we’re at the top of our pay scales, it is still God who gave us the ability to work in those jobs. In the times of “plenty,” it can indeed humble us to remember the times that weren’t so great. For even in the difficult times, the wilderness times of our lives, we know that God has brought us through.

In the passage with Jesus healing the 10 lepers, one of them returns to thank Jesus. Now, we can’t know whether the 9 others are failing at gratitude. Could it be that this one—a foreigner even—recognizes something deeper about Jesus? Jesus tells him, “your faith has made you well.” Could it be that his faith in Jesus goes deeper than just being thankful for being made clean?

Not only did Jesus heal him, but Jesus was willing to come near him even though he was unclean! And Jesus was willing to heal him even though he was a foreigner—a despised Samaritan! This Jesus who came alongside him despite his current situation, was in fact, God in-the-flesh.

From one person to the next, none of our circumstances are exactly alike. Some of us may be experiencing times of plenty while others are in times of need. Some may be confident of their direction in life while others of us are wandering in some kind of wilderness. Some of us may feel well and whole while others are struggling with unspeakable ailments that keep us down.

Whether it’s the time of our lives or the worst time imaginable, God is with us. God is active and present with us every day—no matter our circumstances. God made the dirt, he is present with us in our wilderness times, and he comes alongside us at our weakest and most vulnerable points. And when we become touched by the depth of his love, when we feel his presence with us despite our circumstances, it is then that gratitude is possible.

And so, in this time when our nation makes a point to give thanks, it is my fervent prayer for you that you may see all of life as a gift from God. And may you recognize him as your source, your strength, and an abiding presence with you no matter what.

Happy vs. Blessed Thanksgiving

The last way to be happy is to make it your objective in life.

—”Nick Smith” in Metropolitan

I try not to say, “Happy Thanksgiving” when I remember. Instead, I prefer to say, “Blessed Thanksgiving.”

Why?

Because happiness is just way too elusive.

How are happiness and blessedness different?

Happiness is a feeling and feelings change frequently. Also, happiness is often closely tied to our circumstances–when they’re good we feel happy; when they’re bad we don’t.

Sometimes–even on holidays–or especially on holidays–it is really hard to feel happy. In fact, sometimes holidays can accentuate circumstances that are pretty crummy.

But blessedness just is, no matter how we feel and regardless of our present circumstances. We are all blessed in some way.

We are blessed with life and most especially we are blessed with a God who loves us. One of my dear theology professors used to say, “God loves you for Christ’s sake and will never let you go.”

When the message of Thanksgiving is that we should be happy, I go a little Scrooge. Partly because we can’t just flip a switch and be happy.

But also I think gratitude is deeper than that. Gratitude is tied to blessings–to those realities of life that are despite feelings or circumstances.

When we can see that which is true in our lives because of the God that loves us no matter what, we may not necessarily get giddy-happy, but we can begin to access a deeper sense of gratitude for God-with-us.

So when I say, “Blessed Thanksgiving” it is a prayer of sorts–that folks may know God’s love and grace in their lives amidst fluctuating feelings or shifting circumstances.

I am blessed by each and every one of you and the way you each stand as reminders of God’s love for me. I pray you will know the deep and abiding love of God in your life.

Blessed Thanksgiving!

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