July 1, 2018

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July 1, 2018 Sermon - Phil Leavenworth
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Sermon    July 1, 2018




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXDMoiEkyuQ ) from 4:24 to the end (9:55), so about 5 minutes and 30 seconds.


Wasn’t that a wonderful video? Ever since Brad introduced us to that video a few years ago, I’ve been captivated by the imagery and the soothing voice of the speaker.


Brad and I were in the kitchen a few weeks ago and he told me that he was looking forward to his trip to Germany. I asked him if he was ready to go and he told me that he had good people to conduct the sermons on the first two Sundays, but then quickly asked me if I wanted to take the third Sunday.  I was somewhat taken aback, and I hesitated for a moment, and that video flashed in my memory, and I said, “Sure, why not?”  I knew that, if I could introduce a sermon with that video, the sermon would be a success whether or not I said any other relevant words.  Thank you for permitting me to share these reflections on Gratefulness with you.


I’ve thought of that video many times.   It has made me think how often I have gone through most days with a very small sense of wonder at how spectacular life truly is and how grateful I should be for having been given this phenomenal gift of life. It’s so easy to take life itself for granted, isn’t it?  And it’s truly amazing to think what a gift it is.


Gratefulness.    It seems to me that it comes in two forms or levels. One can be grateful -- that is appreciative or thankful for a lot of things, such as the young person at Miller’s who carts my groceries to the car.  We say “Thank you” to people all the time. They help us in many ways, and it’s appropriate to say thanks.  It’s common courtesy, and it helps make the world go around. 


I’m so thankful for Nina, for example, who has really helped me in my struggle with my osteoarthritis in her yoga class.  I’m thankful for Pete Way, for his spot-on humor and wisdom.  I’m so thankful to Harland for all the kindnesses he’s shown me.  Despite my extreme disappointment that it took over six years for a local medical clinic to have my daughter see a specialist, I’m so thankful that her painful autoimmune condition was finally diagnosed with a simple blood test and then successfully treated.


But gratefulness has another context. Gratefulness to God is a different kind of thankfulness.  Gratefulness to God is gratefulness with a capital G. It’s not the kind of gratefulness that you’ll have forgotten that you uttered three weeks from now. Gratefulness to God in my mind signals a spiritual relationship with the divine, and it seems to me to be a phenomenal communication between humans and God. 


In that communication, Gratefulness reinforces the divinity in each of us.


I think of God as the Creator and, when Brad puts images of the universe up on the video monitor, I’m reminded how spectacular the Creation truly is.  I’m grateful for the Creation but I am also grateful for all of the second chances I’ve been given.  My wife Pat thinks that I have had more than my share of the proverbial nine lives. I won’t go into all of the life-threatening accidents and illnesses that I’ve been through, but I am grateful to God that I have survived so many occasions when my life hung by just a thread. Maybe you too have had some of those experiences. And, even when we didn’t know that our life was in near-peril, such as maybe a deer running behind your car instead of in front of it, or maybe a deadly bacterium that you might have encountered if you would have put your hand just a few inches farther down the railing. Life is so precious, and I think that most of us take it for granted, never fully understanding how remarkable it is.  Being present to gratefulness is necessary because we are created and sustained through the caring of our Creator.


Gratefulness.   This video we watched speaks to me forcefully because it reminds me that gratefulness isn’t only a character to be expressed when we have been saved from adversity, but also to be expressed when we glorify God. We are called to love God with all our might and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves.   Gratefulness is a key component in responding to our call to love God with all of our might and strength.


 Gratefulness to God seems to me to be a quality in a person that needs to be nurtured.  If I’m not waking up every day and saying, how lucky I am to be alive, and how lucky I am to be able to see colors and smell flowers and taste Wisconsin cheese and hear beautiful music in this lovely sanctuary – if I’m not waking up daily and saying how fortunate I am, even for the very simple things in life, I’m missing the call to capital G Gratefulness.


I know that Capital-G Gratefulness is also working in me when my caring for the suffering of other people wakes me up to compassion to their plight. 


I’ve separated thankfulness and capital-G Gratefulness in this discussion, but the more I have thought about it over the last week, I have come to realize that they are indeed intertwined.  I feel the kindness in the service of others and I am thankful for it, but I need to see that kindness as coming from the divine in another person.  In a reciprocal way, capital-G Gratefulness extends me into the Creation and enables me to care for others as Jesus would have me do.  The two gratefulnesses are related and part and parcel of each other. 


I continue to work on a daily effort to communicate my gratefulness to God.

Bible Study

on summer hiatus