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Sermon: “An Attitude of Gratitude"

Community Thanksgiving Service.11.24.19

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Fr. Larry Ort

Deuteronomy 26.1-11; Psalm 100; Philippians 4.4-9; John 6.25-35

If you are like me, you do not get too excited about radio preachers or televangelists. But there is one radio program I have enjoyed over the years, though I have not listened to it for some time – Rev. Charles Swindoll’s “Insight for Living.” Most of you have heard or read Chuck Swindoll’s quotation concerning gratitude. Listen closely to his words of wisdom:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.

Swindoll drew upon 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.” (NRSV)

What if we looked at it this way: “Attitude or gratitude?” I recently began reading Sibyl Harton’s book, Doors of Eternity where I encountered this poem by Virginia Grahm:

‘I am grateful for so many things’

Said the old lady who had lost everything,

‘The warmth of the sun, the little flowers

Make me so happy; and I like my small chats

With the other old ladies in the home.

I can see the sea from my window

And I am doing a dear little piece of tapestry.

God has been so good to me and I glory each day

In the wonders of his creation.

‘Aw, nuts,’ said the young man who had everything

holding the sun, the sea and the flowers in his hands;

‘The world is a lousy place and sick to the heart.

‘Glory?’ he said, ’wonder?’ he asked. “Goodnight.’

But of course she was right.

The old lady expressed gratitude while the young man expressed attitude. To take things one step further, an attitude of gratitude is good provided one’s gratitude does not reflect an attitude. Allow me to repeat that and to provide an example – an attitude of gratitude is good provided one’s gratitude does not reflect an attitude.

Let’s consider the first example. A few Sunday’s ago, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading was Luke 18.9-14, The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Jesus tells us the tax collector “went home justified before God.” The Pharisee’s prayer of gratitude reflected an attitude that shouts “look at me, behold the wonder; see how good I am.” The Pharisee appropriated wonder and the glory for himself rather than recognize they properly belonged to God and God alone. We need to consider our prayers of thanksgiving to ensure they are not expressions of our earthly, egoistic nature.

Let’s compare the Pharisee’s prayer with the prayer from Deuteronomy one was to say when presenting the offering of first fruits:

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me (Deuteronomy 26.5-10; NRSV).

Here we find the action focused on the wonders that God has accomplished; glory is given to God.

As Christians, we too have been delivered from slavery and we have entered the promised land of God’s kingdom. And like our ancestors who ate manna, the bread from heaven, we partake of Jesus, the bread of life. Now there is cause for wonder and glory. As God’s redeemed, let us live in an attitude of gratitude.

Now, join me in three to five minutes of silent meditation as we reflect on the blessings we have received. Please pick one of these blessings and share it with someone you meet during the social time following this service.

Amen

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