Sunday’s sermon: Remembering Gratitude

thankful

from “Art Just for Fun” blog, June Pfaff Daley

Texts used – embedded within the text

Last weekend, comedian and late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel sent one of his “roving reporters” out onto the streets of New York City to ask a bunch of kids one simple question: What are you thankful for?

And, oh, some of the answers that he got!![1]

Sure, a number of them said things like friends, family, pets, and so on … all those answers that make us go, “Awww!” when we hear them in those sweet, child-like voices. But some of them were a little more “out-there”:

What are you thankful for? “Plants, because plants give us air.” Okay … sure.

What are you thankful for? “Sushi and chickpeas.” Huh … ‘k, why not?

What are you thankful for? “My dog that pooped out earbuds.” Nope. Nope. Not even touching that one.

What are you thankful for? “Not flying United Airlines. I hate them. Delta … always fly Delta.” Seriously … you can’t make this stuff up!

Friends, Thanksgiving is fast approaching – that day set aside to celebrate the many blessings that we have in our lives, to take time out to reflect on and express our gratitude for people, opportunities, experiences, and all those other things for which we are thankful. And just like those kids on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the things for which we are thankful vary so greatly from one person to the next. When we talk about the things for which we are thankful, they tell the story of our lives – the ups and the downs – as well as the story of our faith. They shed light for ourselves and for others on the way we experience the world around us. Where do we see the good? Where do we see those blessings? Where do we see God?

And when we get the chance to talk to other people about those blessings – to describe our own and to listen to the things for which other people are thankful – we get an ever greater, more complete picture of God.

See this in Psalm [READ PSALM 136] → When I read this psalm, I picture someone sitting outside with a notebook on a sunny day and just writing down all the things that come to mind when she thinks about what she is thankful for, when he reflects on the word “gratitude” and how that expresses God. Some of them are things we can relate to: “Give thanks to the Lord for [God] is good … Give thanks for the only one who makes all wonders … Give thanks to the one who shaped the earth on the water … God is the one who provides food for all living things – God’s faithful love lasts forever!”[2] Sometimes, the things that other people are grateful for are things that we find it harder to related to: “Give thanks to the one who brought Israel out of [Egypt] … Give thanks to the one who split the Red Sea in two … Give thanks to the one who brought Israel through.”[3] But it’s still important to express our gratitude to the people around us and, in turn, to hear what it is that they are thankful for because in that expression – in giving voice to our thanks and our blessings – we remember them again. We remember to look for them again. We remember how important those blessings truly are to us. And when we remember those blessings – those things that have been and those things that are a source of joy and light and comfort and strength and love in our lives – we are able to go out into the world in a new way. We go out refreshed. We go out centered in who we are and who God is. We go out encouraged. And when that happens, we’re more open to doing that needs to be done to be or enact someone else’s blessing.

So that’s what we’re going to do this morning.  Instead of listening to me for the next 15 minutes, you’re going to spend time listening to each other. You all will be each other’s sermons – witnesses to God in life and in faith.

  • Get into groups of 3-4 (stay where you are or move around if you’d like)
  • Questions on the back of the “I’m Thankful For …” sheet
  • Spend time talking about those questions with the people around you
    • Make sure everyone gets a chance to answer
    • I will prompt from one question to the next à keep things on track
  • Come back together for a short wrap up at the end

TIME OF SHARING

thankful 1

thankful 2

The “front sheet” was the illustration at the top of this post.

thankful 3

thankful 4

We’ve spent some great time this morning sharing our blessings and our thanksgivings with each other. And it’s fun to do that, isn’t it? Did you learn something new about the people you talked to? Did their responses shed some light on something else you may be thankful for – something you’d never thought of before or maybe something you’d forgotten? Did you hear God this morning?

Here’s the thing: It’s great to share those blessings and thanks with other people. But don’t forget to share them with God, too. You may have noticed that we haven’t read our New Testament Scripture reading yet. It’s one of my favorite little Bible stories because it feels so much like life.

[READ LUKE 17:11-19] → Things just kinda sucked for those 10 lepers. They couldn’t be around other people – people without leprosy, I mean. They couldn’t work. They couldn’t attend any of the worship services or religious feast day gatherings or anything like that. They couldn’t see their families (unless their family members also had leprosy). And everyone despised them. And then just like that, for these 10 incredibly blessed people, Jesus heals them. They cry out. Jesus hears. God heals. And most of them are so elated, so overjoyed, so wrapped up in this amazing and miraculous thing that has just happened to them that they just keep going! Maybe they continued on to show the priests like Jesus instructed. Maybe they veered off to find long-lost friends, family, loved ones, etc. Maybe they just went off dancing into the sunset. The point is, they forgot to come back and say “thank you.”

One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”[4] → “One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice.” Friends, we often get so wrapped up in our days and our lives that we forget to return to God with our thanks as well. We tell people about the wonderful things that we have in our lives, the wonderful things that are happening, and we say, “Thank God! We’re so blessed!” But do we actually take that time out of our days to do it? To thank God … to acknowledge that blessing in the presence of the One who gave it … to fall on our faces at the feet of our Incarnate God and thank God for what we have and for what God has done for us and simply for who God is? Friends, today let us follow the example of the Samaritan, the foreigner. Let us remember our gratitude and return to God with thanksgiving. Amen.

[1] http://hollywoodlife.com/2015/11/19/jimmy-kimmel-live-asks-kids-thankful-thanksgiving-video/.

[2] Ps 136:1, 4, 6, 25.

[3] Ps 136:11, 13, 14.

[4] Lk 17:15-19.

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