Preacher’s Post: Gratitude Keeps The Main Thing The Main Thing

harvestAs we come to this Sunday and our national celebration of Thanksgiving, I’ll state the obvious: these are challenging, difficult times. Looking back over the sweep of our history, we’ve experienced deep divisions before as a nation. I don’t know where we are on a scale of 1-10, but it’s as high as I’ve ever seen. We’re not taking up arms against each other, but the rhetoric and emotions are heated. We are so evenly divided over economic policies, social issues, cultural norms, race/gender, and the Christian community reflects all those deep fractures. People are angry, bitter, scared and discouraged. Some of us are through talking about the election, others can’t stop talking about it. I’ve met few this past week who expressed hope – for resignation is not the same as hope.

I have to remember Stephen Covey’s famous maxim: Keeping the main thing the main thing is the main thing.

Gratitude, which translates into generosity of spirit and action, is the most fundamental way to keep the main thing the main thing. Gratitude connects us with God and reminds us we are blessed, and that as we’ve been blessed, we are to pass those blessings along.

Psalm 136:1: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

1 Thessalonians 5:15-18:  See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-9: Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

I’m reminded daily that I am powerless over so much in life. Maybe everything. I do worry…I do fret…I am at times anxious…I can indulge in self-pity. I am powerless to control what will at times well up within me, but being powerless over ______ (you fill in the emotion, relationship, situation, and/or substance), does not mean I am at the mercy of whatever is seeking control of my life at any given moment. I have the power to connect with God’s Spirit and presence through gratitude. The simple act of looking up and unclenching my fists is a physical act that begins the process of surrendering to God and opens me up to the peace that does surpass all understanding. And while I remain powerless over people, places and things, I can nevertheless make my contribution by doing the next right thing, trusting God with all of my life. Simply put: Gratitude is the basis for all transformational spirituality. Period.

On October 3, 1863, William Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State released the presidential proclamation that there would be a national observance of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, 1863. I can’t think of anything so bizarre or counterintuitive. Our nation was at war (and we think we’re divided now?!). The Civil War battles were becoming bloodier and bloodier. Yet, Lincoln, whether he knew it or not (I suspect he knew), acted on the sage biblical advice to give thanks no matter what the circumstances. At this point I was going to excerpt the proclamation, but decided to let Lincoln speak without interruption or editing.

By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Amen. More on the connection between gratitude and generosity of spirit coupled with action Sunday.

Here’s what I have on my desk…

THIS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20TH: BLACK DOG LUNCH—11:30 am IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM. St. Andrew is hosting a lunch for those who suffer from any form of depression to join together for mutual support and encouragement. To view the Black Dog video created by the World Health Organization, go to the following website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc or Google “Black Dog Video”.

THIS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20TH—WE WILL ARE COLLECTING DONATIONS OF NON-PERISHABLE FOOD ITEMS FOR “FISH” (FRIENDS IN SONOMA HELPING)

All donations should be placed in the fellowship hall. Suggestions—dried pasta, rice, dried pinto beans, cereal, tomato sauce, canned tuna, peanut butter, jam, jelly, canned soup, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned milk, baby food, diapers, Ensure, juice, coffee, tea, hot chocolate.

OUR SONOMA VALLEY FAITH COMMUNITY will be gathering at Congregation Shir Shalom, Burlingame Hall, 252 W. Spain Street, Thanksgiving morning at 10:00 AM for our joint worship service. This is a great way to make sure the real reason for the day is honored before we gather around our tables of plenty.

THE 2017 FLOWER CHART IS IN THE FELLOWSHIP HALL—COST IS $65.

Sign up early to get that special date. Sign up to—celebrate a birthday or anniversary, honor someone special, remember a loved one or just because you want to make a contribution for a floral arrangement that will bring pleasure to our church family. Simply write your name and phone number on the flower chart on the line by the date of your choice. Prior to your chosen Sunday, you will be sent a letter from the church office confirming your sign-up, a form to fill out specifying what you would like printed in the News and Notes, and a return envelope to mail the form and your check back to St. Andrew.

To read the entire Preacher’s Post, CLICK HERE.

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