Engaging Our Gratitude Sensors
Indianapolis First Friends Quaker Meeting
Pastor Bob Henry
November 11, 2018
Colossians 3:11-17 (NRSV)
11 In that renewal[a] there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[b] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ[c] dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.[d] 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
And be thankful…and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. I hope this is our posture this morning and as we begin preparing for our Thanksgiving holidays.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to read to the children at Meridian Street Preschool Co-op. If anything gives me a grateful heart it is those kiddos. Most days, just after I am done reading the book, I usually talk with them about the next month when I will be coming back and reading again. But this week as we talked about me coming back, I mentioned that we were heading into some fun times. Times with family and even some surprises.
Most of the kids had no clue that we were just a couple of weeks from Thanksgiving. But one astute 4 yr. old, almost out of the blue, remembered and he couldn’t contain himself yelling, “Soon it will be the day to be thankful for turkeys!”
I couldn’t help but think how his innocence and the mixing of all that the holiday of Thanksgiving brings was simply spot on. We should be thankful for turkeys – just as we should be grateful for so much more in our world.
And if only our gratitude would spring up out of us like that 4 yr. old, with excitement, joy, and energy – it would make such an impact on our world. Very rarely do I turn on my T.V. or radio anymore and hear people sharing moments of gratitude. Actually, if I am completely honest, I don’t hear much of what Brenda read in the scripture for today. Very little if any…
compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other…and especially thankfulness and gratitude.
These are almost radical beliefs and actions in our world today.
For many, just the idea of the Thanksgiving holiday and getting together with family, seems a burden or a chore. And then add to that politics, religion, mass shootings, family issues, and all that is going on in our world and Thanksgiving Holidays can become anything but a time of gratitude and thanksgiving. For example here are some real-life descriptions of past family thanksgivings that were a bit more than thankful.
From Paige on Facebook: "Our whole family got into a screaming fight about the validity of the Twilight series, which somehow brought up every issue we have ever had with one another. It ended with half of my family storming out and a mutual decision that we shouldn't spend too much time together."
From Michelle on Facebook: "One year my dad flipped out on my sister for adding cheese to the mashed potatoes to the point where he locked himself in his room for the majority of the afternoon."
From Natalie: "My grandma accused my aunt of stealing her wedding ring and threatened to call the police on her. We found out my grandma planted her wedding ring in my aunt's purse when she admitted it this past Thanksgiving."
From Taylor: "One year, two of my aunts had a heated argument over who wanted the last bit of turkey skin more. Long story short, one stabbed the other in the hand with a carving knife and had to leave to be treated at the hospital. They're cool now, though."
Now, these real-life stories may make us laugh a bit – but the reality is that this is how it is for some families. And sadly, this is how it is for some churches as well.
We have all heard the stories about people leaving the church over trivial things like the color of the church carpet, or whether to wear choir robes, or what kind of coffee to use for fellowship hour…(haha! – I have heard those are some of ours as well). Sadly, too often it is trivial things that can lead us away from gratitude and missing all that our families, neighborhoods, and Quaker meeting offer us.
In the book Slow Church, Chris and John describe gratitude as the vital bridge that connects abundance and generosity. As a spiritual discipline–one that requires time and intentionality, both on our own and in community–gratitude is how we practice recognizing the abundant gifts God has given us. It’s how we praise God for those gifts. And it is the energy that compels us to want to share those gifts.
From the earliest days of our faith, the Hebrew people have considered gratitude foundational. The Hebrew Torah (or the first five books of our scriptures) instructed people to make offerings of thanksgiving or peace offerings. Some English translations even call them fellowship offerings. The reason for so many different variations (thanksgiving, peace, and fellowship) is that it reminds us that the posture of gratitude occurs in community and by coming together peacefully in fellowship with one another. This is why the word we translate shalom has such a wealth of meaning. Quakers are quick to make it solely about peace, but it is so much more.
Rabbi Rick Schechter says,
“More than peace, shalom means well-being, health, wholeness, and prosperity…Using a Jewish lens to explore each path may help us realize shalom in our lives.
The Positive emotions it includes are “ joy, love, gratitude, hope, and awe…” and “…are vital to Jewish living….” and …”enhance energy and creativity, strengthen the immune system, build better relationships, promote higher productivity, and even contribute to a longer life.”
This concept and belief continues throughout our New Testament as well as the Hebrew scriptures. Author David Pao says that some scholars believe that Paul mentions this shalom – what he considers a mix of thanksgiving and grace more frequently per page than any other Helleneistic writer of his time.
Judao-Christian faith is steeped in shalom or thanksgiving and grace which happens within community.
Let’s take a moment and think about this for First Friends. What does gratitude, shalom or thanksgiving and grace look like for us. I want to give us a moment to think about this, so I want to ask us some queries to ponder and talk about with one another.
What are some of the practices of gratitude in our meeting?
How do we express our gratitude to God?
How do we express our gratitude to one another?
What are our practices of celebration? How do we “rejoice with those who rejoice”?
[At this point we paused and our music minister, Eric Baker came forward to help us celebrate three important birthdays in our meeting by leading us in singing Happy Birthday. Joyce Bowmen who turned 86, on this day, Helen Davenport who turns 90 on Monday, and Richard Mills who turned 91 last Sunday.]
Think back over your history in our meeting. When have you felt most alive and energized. Who was involved, what was happening, and what energized you?
What is the most life-giving virtue of our meeting? How is that virtue evidenced in our meeting?
If the elections this week and our world have taught me anything, it is the fact that we as a people (on all sides) are dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction is a killer of gratitude.
When we are dissatisfied and buy into a mentality that we don’t have everything we need or deserve we become quickly ungrateful.
We become distrustful, divided, competitive and our world quickly moves from gratitude, shalom, thanksgiving and grace to war, hunger, poverty, economic inequality, racism, and ecological destruction. And it is our dissatisfaction which leads to injustice, mistreatment, and abuse.
We move from the ways of God to the ways of humanity.
So to close this morning, I think we need to reengage our gratitude sensors. It won’t just help our Thanksgiving holidays, but it will help us remember what we should be grateful for, and how we have forgotten or neglected to see the greater abundance that God has provided for us. In your bulletin is a special insert. Take it out. This will help you reengage those gratitude sensors.
1. Identify 3 things that you feel grateful for and appreciate about your life.
These things can be based on the past, present, or future. No category or thing is too big or small to appreciate, however, being specific might be helpful.
2. Identify 3 things that you take for granted but are actually very thankful for.
We all have things that we take for granted. This is the time to reflect and discover which of those you value the most.
3. Identify 3 things that you appreciate about yourself.
Pick things that are meaningful. These can involve your personality, your qualities, your actions, or anything else directly related to yourself.
4. Identify 3 things that you feel grateful for about First Friends.
What does First Friends mean to you and your spiritual journey.
5. Identify 3 people who had a significant and positive experience on your life.
These can be coaches, mentors, professors, bosses, family members, or anyone else. Call those people to mind and think about how they made a difference in your life.
Whether it is by giving a testimony of gratitude during Open Worship today, by making a phone call, writing a note, planning a lunch, visiting the graveyard or favorite place you spent time together, find a way to let those people know your gratitude today.
Let us continue this as we enter into Open Worship this morning.