I THOUGHT IT WAS A GREAT IDEA when I heard that our church was going to have a sermon series about gratitude.
Then I found out that we’re making our annual pledges for financial support during that sermon series.
“Let’s see how grateful you are.”
“Manipulative.” That was my first thought.
For those who might not read any further, let me say that our first thought is not always our best thought.
At the outset of this sermon series, coincidentally, I found myself in a Bible study on Philippians 4.
“Take all of your requests and your gratitude to God…Focus on good things. Let your mind dwell on whatever’s true. Whatever’s honorable. Whatever’s just. Whatever’s pure. Whatever’s lovely. Whatever’s commendable. If you come across anything worth praising, let your mind spend time there.” Philippians 4:6, 8 Casual English Bible
But by the end of the hour, we were talking about heartache, not gratitude.
We were talking about people in our lives who are suffering.
- One sat among us, weeping.
- One spoke of clinical depression.
- One spoke of the unspoken – of a beloved soul, not identified, awaiting a diagnosis that could send that person, with family and friends, down a path no one wants to travel.
Is this the time or the place for gratitude?
When darkness drags us down
If ever there was a time or a place for gratitude, this is it, I believe.
- When life is on the line
- when weighted darkness drags us into a depression,
- when our only response to what’s going on in our body is tears
…isn’t that the perfect time for gratitude?
Isn’t that the direction we need to turn? Away from heartbreak, numbness, agony – or whatever else is trying to take us over?
Paul put it this way,
“The Lord gives you every reason to rejoice. So do it. I’ll say it again, rejoice…Don’t worry yourselves about anything. Pray about everything. Take all of your requests and your gratitude to God. Divine peace from God himself will settle deep inside you, guarding your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 Casual English Bible
A sermon for fundraising
As for the sermon series, why not take the annual pledge offering after a sermon about gratitude, especially if we’re grateful for what the church does for us, with us, and sometimes in spite of us?
Better that than a sermon about Athaliah killing her family so she could become queen of the Jews (2 Kings 11).
“And now for the offering. Give and given generously, while listening to these powerful words in music from the Wizard of Oz: ‘The Wicked Witch is Dead.’”
Yep, a sermon on gratitude is a better idea.
It’s probably good to think about gratitude when we’re giving away our money, if we’re grateful for what our money does to help people.
It’s a good idea to think about it, too, when everything seems to be falling apart all around us.
The flesh might be weak, but the spirit is willing.
We can be grateful for that.
As I work my way through making maps for Genesis, for the Casual English Bible, here’s one I posted yesterday, for Genesis 36. It’s of Esau’s homeland of Edom, on the west side of what is now the Arab country of Jordan.