Summary: We are called to live grateful lives, open to God and open to people. God does this by give us a quality that Jesus had in abundance: Peace.
Sermon - Thanksgiving 2015 - Church at the Mission - Colossians 3:15-17
The story is told of two old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked very sad, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, "What has the world done to you, my old friend?"
The sad fellow said, "Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars." "That’s a lot of money."
"But, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand free and clear." "Sounds like you’ve been blessed...." "You don’t understand!" he interrupted.
"Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million." Now he was really confused. "Then, why do you look so glum?" "This week... nothing!"
That’s funny, perhaps, but it does illustrate, in an exaggerated way, a certain attitude toward life, a perspective that can come out of us humans. People are funny that way.
What kind of person do you enjoy being around? What raises your interest in a new person that you meet?
Are you drawn to someone who is discontent, someone who is angry a lot of the time, someone who complains about many things?
Someone who finds fault in others, someone who is basically unhappy?
Or, are you drawn to people who are positive, who express appreciation for life, who you find yourself encouraged by when you're around them, are you drawn to a grateful people, thankful people?
I don't think that's a particularly hard decision to make.
Most of us are drawn to people who have managed to live this difficult life that we all live, and yet have somehow risen above their difficulties, their challenges, even their suffering, and have chosen to look at life through gratitude-colored glasses.
You see, I think negativity is easy. I think complaining is a cinch. It's effortless to gripe, it's no sweat to dwell on the negative.
There can be satisfaction in complaining. Especially when you find others that are sympathetic to your complaint.
We enjoy commiserating with others who feel the same negative way that we feel, who agree that we have been treated unfairly, who agree with us that the system doesn't serve us well, who agree that life is just plain unfair.
There is some satisfaction in complaining, but I am persuaded that there is no actual virtue to complaining.
Pastor Lee, who most of you know, is constantly managing challenging, difficult situations. He does it with a lot of wisdom, grace and a very deep understanding of human nature.
Many times Pastor Lee has brought to my attention a concern or problem that someone is facing, that the mission is dealing with, that is making life difficult.
But he has never, to my recollection, come to me with one of those situations without also having at least one, sometimes many more, proposed solutions to the problem.
It really seems to me that he views problems as opportunities. That he views difficult situations as opportunities to call on God, to seek the wisdom of God, and even to help the rest of us remember that God is in control, that God loves us.
There are many reasons that I respect Pastor Lee. This is a big one.
Pastor Jan is the same. In fact, this past summer when we were facing what we thought was going to be a big problem for the church, Pastor Jan spent what must've been hours coming up with an incredibly detailed, positive, holistic solution to the problem we were facing.
Her thinking contributed to the solution to the problem. She was not overwhelmed by the problem.
She didn't throw her hands up in the air. Instead she prayed, she did some of her best thinking, and she made a very positive difference. And the problem is no more.
What you find with these kind of people, Pastor Lee and Pastor Jan, is that they don't buy into the lie that any problem or challenge is bigger than God.
And they are thankful. Thankful to God for blessings, but also for challenges. It is a gift to be alive, and being alive means we will face troubles.
But we can never forget what Jesus said about this very thing. John 16: 33b “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
And so, my dear friends Pastor Lee and Pastor Jan know that they know that they know that Jesus is Lord, that God is good, and that it is God who gives the answers to the problems we face.
And not only that, it is God who gives us something, without which we are sure to panic, to complain, even to despair.