Summary: This is a Thanksgiving message that focuses on how the true worship of the living God leads to a disposition of gratitude can give us peace in all circumstances, even the worst
What do you think might inspire an 18-year old, young woman, to write in her diary: "Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on earth, my eyes raised towards heaven, tears run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude"?
This isn’t a passage from a young girl's summer camp diary. Her name was Etty Hillesum, and the camp she speaks of is a Nazi death camp. What do you think might enable her to write that?
Or, what would inspire a middle-aged, man who was dying of cancer to say, when asked if his cup was half-full or half empty, that his cup was overflowing?
The middle-aged man was my brother, Craig. He was a non-smoking, healthy-living husband and father of two, who died about 7 1/2 years ago from cancer.
Something inspired unexpected responses from both this woman and this man. In the middle of the battlefield of what would normally be a dark, lonely, desperate, despairing situation, these two people defied their circumstances.
I want to spend a few minutes unpacking the ‘why’ of the remarkably positive perspectives of these 2 individuals. Both were people of strong faith.
Etty strongly identified with the Jewish people, while in her personal spiritual journey she was nourished by the Bible, Christian writers St. Augustine and Dostoevsky and she affirmed the Christian faith.
My brother, Craig, was a committed Christ-follower, very active in his church and in his community.
Now, let me ask you - do you think most of us live in a way that’s more resentful than grateful?
Chicago-based Writer Ray Hollenback says: “We’ve taught ourselves to be discontent. We are a people gone crazy with complaints, (but) through gratitude we can see the world through fresh eyes”.
Many are more resentful than grateful because we compare ourselves with those who have more, who've done more. But the truth, perhaps the hard truth, is that gratitude is a choice. It’s an attitude.
If I’m not happy with what I have, I won’t be happy having more. Contentment, trusting that where I am now I am in God’s hands, will lead to continuing to be content as life situation changes.
And I want to suggest that faith in the living God is the thing that transforms us and transforms our responses to the things that happen to us in life.
Our Scripture passages today helps us to unpack why God wants us to live with gratitude, and how a mindset and a lifestyle of gratitude has everything to do with shaping who we are, how we experience life, and how we will deal with tragedy or suffering, if or when it comes. This is important, because in this life we can’t get away from suffering.
Well…what does gratitude do? Psalm 100, perhaps the greatest psalm of gratitude in the Bible, gives us insight into this question.
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Gratitude to God, such as that expressed in this psalm, firstly, keeps us connected to the truth that the Lord is God. No one and nothing else is God. Other things compete for our allegiance.
Idols are everywhere in our culture, from celebrities to musicians, from office towers on Bay Street to human philosophies, other things seek to dethrone God from our hearts, to make Jesus Christ of secondary value and worth.
But when we express our gratitude to the one true God, and when, as in this psalm, that gratitude wells up in us in worship, we make a radical statement that the Lord is God, that Jesus is Lord, and that all idols, anything else that could be mistaken for or worshiped as god, are falsehood.
We align ourselves with this truth, we align ourselves with this joyful reality, and we have peace.
God is God and we are not. That doesn’t mean we’re insignificant. We are made by God, woven together in our mother’s wombs, intended for blessing, intended for reconciliation with God, intended for salvation, for heaven.
We’re his workmanship, created to do good, created for good works that God long ago intended for us to do.
We’re made by God. People of God...you are His! We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. We belong together, walking as God’s people.
This is a tough message if we’re used to thinking of ourselves as number 1, as our own gods. To go from living with that illusion to accepting that we are the sheep of God’s pasture is a humbling thing, but again, it aligns us with reality as it is.