Sermon for October 9, 2016 Thanksgiving “The Proof of Gratitude”
The Feast of Booths was and is the Hebrew celebration of harvest and had at its core gratitude and sharing.
The Original Peoples of the America’s welcomed travelers many years ago and if not for their hospitality and sharing those travelers would not have survived.
Cicero, 50 years before Jesus said that gratitude was the parent of all virtues.
All religions and philosophies have at their root a strong connection to gratitude.
One of my favorite contemporary authors (Brenee Brown) nudges us to move from an attitude of gratitude to a practice of gratitude.
Jesus reminds us that ‘our daily bread’ is vital but along with that is the bread that nourishes the soul and spirit.
There is an excellent article in this month’s Observer titled “The Gratitude Effect” that explores some of the recent scientific proof that gratitude has far reaching health benefits. It is something that we have known since we first walked the planet but now is given a scientific boost.
Robert Emmons a leading gratitude researcher says about gratitude: “now I am compelled by the power of this force to heal, energize and change lives.” He quotes the Apostle Paul “do not be anxious about anything, but is every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God…” what is critical in understanding is that Paul is in prison and his life was in the hands of the Roman Empire. Emmons posits: “Can you imagine a society without gratitude? Exchanges would be based purely on contracts. Without the moral glue of gratitude, society would crumble. We ignore gratitude at our own peril.”
The Gospel story today Jesus refers to himself as “the bread of life”. The questions that follow are not unlike the ones we would most likely ask. Where? How? What? And finally: Huh? Or I don’t understand.
As I understand the Gospel with the advantage of some years, I know that believing in Jesus is not like a beneficial Hogwort’s school of wizardry spell. Believing in Jesus is not a magic bean that will solve all the problems. Believing in Jesus puts us in a frame of mind that opens us to possibility, that allows us to see past our knife and plate, that places us where Jesus needs us to be disciples and not where we think we need to be. Most of all it puts our spirit in alignment with the abundance of Jesus’ grace that leaves room only for gratitude.
Show us a sign so that we can believe. How common is that, we want proof. We have known intuitively that gratitude (or as my parents would say: good manners) has far reaching positive effects and yet we wait for proof. Jesus reminds us that we will chase all sorts of schemes and get there quicker ideas that just don’t work. We will seek out the nourishment that is un-filling and temporary, it is, for some reason, our nature. 2000 years ago Jesus said “come to me and you will be satisfied beyond imagining, your yearning for quick fix schemes will vanish and you will be about the mission that fills you and others too.
Jesus calls us into a loving relationship with God. The first steps are challenging as they demand of us a letting go: of stuff, of preconceived notions, of ego, judgement and of self-serving service. After the first step we enter a place of knowing love from which we cannot turn back. A world of thanks and gratitude. A world of sharing and caring. It is in our nature to offer gratitude. This Thanksgiving is the time to stop waiting for the right moment.
For me: I say thanks be to God, thanks be for family and food, thanks be for you, thanks be. Amen.