The Act Of Giving Thanks

I’m so so so so behind in posting my sermon this week!  We are in the middle of VBS and things are a little bit nutty around here. :)

Enjoy!

***

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

The Act Of Giving Thanks

I recently saw a poster on Pinterest that had the following saying on it:

What if
you woke up
today
with only
the things
you thanked God for
yesterday?

At first I scoffed at the saying. “I give thanks to God,” I thought to myself. “Every day!”

But then I thought about it. Well … do I? I mean … I know I may not always specifically mention every single thing that I am grateful for, but I AM grateful for them and I do not want to lose any of those things. From the silly and frivolous things – like my iPhone and my shoes – to the important and invaluable things – like my family, my friends and my ministry – I am so grateful for things that I do not always give thanks for on a daily basis.

Now, I am not here to suggest that we all start our mornings off by sitting down and making a list of everything we are grateful for. I am, however, suggesting that we take a look at the psalm that we just read – a psalm that begins by saying, “O give thanks to the LORD for he is good” – and think about the ways that we – we as individuals – can praise in the regular routines of our day-to-day lives.

It is easy to praise God within the walls of a church. This morning we not only praise God through our prayers and our songs, but also through the sacraments. We praise God by welcoming a new member into the Body of Christ through baptism and will later praise God in a shared liturgy as we gather around a table prepared for us through communion.

But then we will sing our closing hymn, hear the benediction, enjoy cookies and lemonade and go our separate ways. What happens then? We may plants the roots of our faith during worship on Sunday mornings, but our branches extend out into the world every day. How do we praise God in our own lives throughout the rest of the week, within our lives?

It is not easy. Life presents challenges; I am certainly not saying that we always have to be thankful for those challenges (and trust me – never underestimate the power of a good meltdown, either!). Even the psalmist admits to the varying degrees of devastation and pain that life often brings. “Some wandered in the desert wastes,” he wrote, “finding no way to an inhabited town; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.”

But he went on: “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way until they reached an inhabited town.”

We are often drawn closer to God as we experience a crisis; most of us know this and have actually experienced this in our own life. But remember that we do not have to wait for something bad to draw us closer to God. Our prayers should not simply be a reaction to something bad happening, but a continual praise of the good things that surround us every day. And the act of continual praise will strengthen and guide us through the treacherous waters we may face. “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,” the psalmist urges us, “for his wonderful works to humankind. For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.”

I was reading a commentary this week and the author, John West, explained that there is a lot of disagreement regarding the origin and context of this particular psalm. I loved his reflection on this disagreement and thought it was worth sharing:

In the end, it is not necessary to choose one context over the other. … The theological message of this psalm works equally well in either context: God is active as redeemer in the history of Israel as well as in the lives of individuals. {John W. Vest, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, Page 303}

West reminded us that God not only redeemed then, but he redeems now – and we should give thanks for that every day.

So how do we do that? How do we give thanks to God every day?

We talked about prayer last week and how finding alternative ways to pray – through words, art, music, hobbies and more – can help build our spiritual fitness. Discerning how to praise God in our day-to-day lives can be approached in a similar way.

Let’s think creatively for a moment; let’s think outside the walls of the church.

For starters, we can be part of a church community. And not only should we be part of a church community, but we should be active and involved in that community as well. We do so not out of obligation, but out of delight and joy, knowing that we have the opportunity to be a tangible expression of God’s goodness, grace and mercy to the people that we meet.

We can try to reframe our way of thinking. As human beings it is often our natural tendency to be negative. This is something that we have to constantly fight back against, but I think that it is possible. I think that we can – as difficult as it may be – pause for a moment before we react to something and be thankful for what is around us rather than complaining about the things that are not perfect.

We can maintain a gratitude diary – either privately or publically. Sometimes the simple act of acknowledging a praise can create more joy in our lives.

We can set a positive example – in our families, at work, at school and with our friends. We can resist the negativity of others and encourage them to be thankful for what they have. We lead with our words and – more importantly – through our actions.

We can share our ministries – the gifts and passions we have turned into ministries – with others. This reminds the people around us that we are all active members of the Body of Christ and that God’s light shines in all of us.

These are just a few suggestions that popped into my head – there are so many more! But remember that God is good – all the time. Let us – like the Psalmist – praise God for all that he is, all that he does and all that he creates us to be.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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