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Waking Up to Gratitude - How’s the Weather? - Sermon #01

Waking Up to Gratitude - How’s the Weather? - Sermon #01 • August 20, 2017 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor

We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. And the gift of God that you bring with you into this space. As a church we gather together in the active presence of God through our worship, community, and engagement with scripture, which we hope will lead to transformational growth in our everyday life. As a congregation we want to cultivate tangible joy, hope, and comfort as we learn to trust Jesus more and more, enabling us to reflect the welcome and peace of Jesus to those closest to us.

An Interlude - More Reflections on the events of Charlottesville
Before I launch our new sermon series today, I wanted to let you know that the pastors advisory committee is meeting this morning to continue our monthly conversations about what it means to be a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, reconciling church. We have been meeting for over a year discussing the issues of race and its impact on the local church.

We started reading the book, “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman in June to start a conversation about how race and racism impacts the multi-ethnic church. As I stated last week racism, bigotry, and white supremacy are not kingdom values nor are they fruits of the spirit. They are sinful because racism, bigotry, and white supremacy rejects what God says about each of us, namely that we are all created God’s image (Isaiah 5:20).

As a church we want to be a safe place for all people who are seeking God. This requires work on our part, work that I believe we are up for. We must remain engaged in understanding our calling to be the people of God in God’s creation. Willing to follow Jesus through the narrow gate into life doing what the prophet Micah tells us to do: seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk with humility before God. This starts with our repentance. Our decision to follow and trust Jesus.

As the PAC prepares for our August meeting, I want to invite each of you to share with us how the events of Charlottesville have impacted or are impacting you. There’s a link to a feedback form in my sermon notes for you to share your reflections with us.

Vacation Logs
Two weeks ago I returned from vacation. When I got back, a colleague asked, “If I learned anything about myself?”

I sure did.

As I tell my story, it might helpful for you to recall a time where you felt disappointment that you weren’t able to get your way. A time where your needs were being ignored or overlooked. Or a time where you didn’t pay attention to the details of an activity or event and felt regret that you didn’t pay closer attention at the beginning.

STORY: We started our vacation in Salt Lake City, UT then headed to Park City, UT for a family reunion. After the family reunion, we extended our stay in Utah by driving 225 miles south to Cedar City, UT. This would become our new home base for our planned visits to the three national parks nearby: Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, and Zion.

Maria did all of the planning for our vacation, I just booked the rental car and reserved the hotels. After our first visit to a national park, I realized that we were going to spend a lot of our time driving. While I enjoy driving, driving an hour and half before spending a day in 100º plus weather with an hour and half drive back wasn’t looking like a great prospect. Not-to-mention that Maria wanted to do either a sunrise or sunset in each park, which meant we were going to have a 4am morning or 11pm evening.

I’m an eternal optimist and I’m a problem solver. Even though it was the peak visiting season, I figured I could just get another hotel for a couple days to allow us to do a sunrise and sunset in the park. Win-win, right?

If you were me, you would think so, but it wasn’t just me I had to consider, there were five of us. And the hotel that I originally booked was great! It had a pool, a fire pit, and s’mores every night. It also had a garden for the guests, where you could pick vegetables that they would grill for you with your dinner.

Well, I was able to find a hotel for two nights right in front of one of the parks. I even reserved it. Then I talked with Maria about my solution. This was a win-win, right? She got a sunrise and a sunset, and I didn’t have to drive three hours a day. But Maria didn’t welcome my change with the grateful appreciation I had hoped for. She lamented the fact that we would have change hotels, and she said the hotel that I booked outside of the park and in a word, “hated” it! My win-win wasn’t working.

I was grumpy. I was angry. I regretted not paying closer attention to the details of our vacation. I would have done things differently. Given that a solution was available, I wanted my solution to work.

As I was having a pity party at the pool. The Holy Spirit spoke to me. The Spirit invited me to see all of this not as an obstacle to overcome, but as a gift. But how is something I don’t want a gift?

Waking up to Gratitude
The Holy Spirit’s interruption of my pity party got me thinking about the important role of gratitude in our discipleship. To be grateful is to recognize, acknowledge, and accept that we are the recipient of a gift. The most basic gift we receive is life itself.

9 You are the giver of life. Your light lets us enjoy life. (Psalm 36:9, NCV)

When things are going our way, it is easy to see our lives as a gift, however, the growing edge of our discipleship is to see life as a gift even when things aren’t going our way.

Over the next several weeks, we are going to talk about waking up to or cultivating gratitude in our everyday lives. Gratitude is the recognition of a given gift–the development of thankfulness in our everyday. We know that we are grateful when we are able to live life without taking things for granted. The practice of gratitude allows us to keep our hearts open regardless of whatever comes our way. Then there’s a bonus, we are transformed into joyful people when we practice, integrate, and embody gratitude.

Gratitude starts in the heart with the recognition of the gifts we’ve been given, including the gift of life.

Jesus says in John 10,

10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:10-11)

Jesus in this often quoted passage, invites us to trust him and his purpose and mission for us, so that we might have life. I think we wrestle what this life looks like? Is this a life that is free from tribulation, trials, or hardship? No, not at all! Somehow we have been convinced that joy and hardship are mutually exclusive. They are not. We can have hardship and experience joy.

Remember Jesus says,

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

As we were driving into Cedar Breaks, we happened upon a herd of about 200 sheep. They just came out of the woods and crossed the road. There was a shepherd on horseback with four herd dogs in charge of the sheep. As we came upon them, we slowed and were greeted by one of the herd dogs who growled, barked, and chased our van as we made our way through herd. This dog was willing to attack us to protect the sheep, and Jesus says that he is willing to lay down his life for us so that we might have life. That dog was willing to take my life for those sheep, and Jesus says,

10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:10-11)

Often we focus on what we think Jesus wants from us, preventing us from see what Jesus wants for us. Here in John, Jesus wants us to have life.

Alienation vs Interdependence
This is a gift; full life is a gift.

A gift makes us dependent on the giver. And we want to be self-reliant. Sure, at one level, we want to depend on God, but that’s mostly for things we want. We want God to bless our plans, bless our vision, bless our goals, bless our agenda. This was what was at work with me and Maria. “Maria, just say yes to my plan and everything will be okay.”

This is the message of the Empire: “You are self-sufficient. Everything you have in life, you earned.” But that’s a lie. The only way to be self-sufficient is to be a god. This was one of the sins of the first human in the garden, they wanted to be like God, not dependent or even interdependent on God.

Friends, our ability to see everything as a gift reveals a measure of capacity for gratefulness.

If you earned it, it’s not a gift.
If you deserve it, it’s not a gift.

Remember, God is the giver of life:

9 You are the giver of life. Your light lets us enjoy life. (Psalm 36:9, NCV)

Let me return to the exchange that I had with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit invited me to see the driving as a gift. I was so focused on not getting my way that I was missing the reality in front me. I opened my eyes again. This time I saw the mountains, the clear skies, the Sun. I was outside enjoying myself, not getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. The kids were content and happy. Maria was happy. When I started to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit by accept the situation as I gift my attitude started to change. Slowly, I gave up my agenda to change things. Slowly I started to relax, slowly the anger started to subside. And I enjoyed the rest of my vacation, including the three hours of driving each time we visited the national parks.

I want us to be more joyful and that starts with gratitude, and gratitude starts in our hearts as we recognize that God is the giver of life (Psalm 36:9).

Practical Tip:
Start a gratitude journal. You can do this in a number of ways. Start today by filling out a blue card and note what you are grateful for today.

Tips for getting started with Gratitude:
Notice your day-to-day world from a point of gratitude.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Give at least one compliment daily.
When things aren’t going your way, ask, “What can I learn?”

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