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When our lives enter uncharted territory, it is always good to have a mentor to go to; someone who is on a similar journey but ahead of us, who can give us some advice. Someone who can see things that we do not always notice ourselves. (Luke 1:39-45, 56)
An angel appears to Mary surprising her and disrupting her day. When God calls, sometimes, what you are asked to do is risky. Has God ever interrupted your day? An angel is a messenger of God. We have all heard tales of supernatural encounters. But sometimes, angels are real people, a stranger or a friend. God uses different ways to nudge us and bring about a holy disruption. (Luke 1:26-38)
The weeks leading up to Christmas are busy and noisy times. Every shop is playing Christmas carols in a continuous loop. Retailers are ramping up their advertisements enticing us to spend more and more. We are bombarded with invitations for Christmas concerts, plays, parties, dinners etc. and are calendars are over-full with clashing engagements. Our…
Gratitude awakes us to a new sense of who we are individually and in community. It gives us a new story; we are all beneficiaries and in turn we are all benefactors to each other. Gratitude calls us to sit together and imagine the world as a table of hospitality. Gratitude makes all things new. (Luke 19:1-10, Colossians 2:6-7)
Individual gratefulness is a disposition that can be chosen and cultivated in a way that manifests itself as actions, where each choice leads to more gratitude and a spiral of appreciation. So too, communal gratefulness and joy as we celebrate together, can also manifest itself as actions. Once you have empathy for others and a shared thankfulness, there is a realization that we cannot be quiet in the face of injustice. And so, gratitude becomes the actions of protest and resistance. (Matthew 5:1-12)
Gratitude is social. It takes us outside of ourselves. What do you do when something good has happened to you? You tell others! You go home and tell your family, pick up the phone to call a friend, or post on social media. And they celebrate with you. We do that every week at prayer time as we share our joys with one another. And if it is a big milestone, we mark it with a party or a public ceremony. (Mark 14:22-25, Acts 2:43-47)
District Superintendent Rev. Blake Busick was our guest preacher for our service as we celebrated paying off our mortgage and being debt-free. The discipleship journey begins with being called, then we grow and are equipped and then we are sent to tell others. (Matthew 4:18-22, 28:16-20)
The emotions of gratitude sneak up on us as an unplanned response. But what happens if you are the one who is not overwhelmed with gratefulness. How do we experience gratitude when our feelings are elusive? Perhaps the answer lies in defining gratitude as not just what we feel, but also as what we say and do. Then those actions and habits and practices of gratefulness can begin to change us. (Psalm 95:1-2, Luke 17:11-19)
Who likes writing thank-you notes? Who finds it a chore? How often do you give a gift and not receive a thank you note? As I write this sermon, I have just remembered a note that I intended to write this week and failed to do. There is a disconnect sometimes between the gratitude we feel and how we act. (Psalm 136:1-9,26, James 1:17)
Our giving expresses what we love. It is a declaration of our hearts. God doesn’t require our generosity. But when we truly accept the generous gift of God’s love, our only possible response is to live and give generously. (John 3:16-17, 2 Corinthians 8:2)