Psalm 118:21-29, Colossians 4:12-17
November 7, 2010
I like the sound of that phrase. “The attitude of gratitude.” It kind of flows out in a nice rhyme. “The attitude of Gratitude.” It also makes be a lot of sense. Because I believe gratitude is an attitude. Don’t you think? Do you have an attitude of gratitude? Are you a thankful person? Or do you tend to forget to thank others, or God?
That’s what I want us to think about today – and this whole month for that matter. November rolled around at Midnight last Sunday, and one of the highlights of that month is the celebration of Thanksgiving. But I think one day is not enough, don’t you? One day a year for Thanksgiving is way too little to remember to be thankful. I’m sure you’d agree that we should be thankful every day. So I’m giving you almost a month’s lead time. Be thinking about “Thanksgiving” now, and know that thanksgiving is a state of mind. Gratitude is an attitude.
As I think about that, I remember the words of wisdom I once heard. For the life of me I can’t remember who actually said them, but I’ll always remember them. He (or she) said, “There are three important things to remember in life. Number one, control your emotions.” In other words, temper your emotions with reason. Don’t let them run away with themselves! “Number two, manage your moods.” Don’t let your demeanor be whatever the feeling of the day might be. Manage it! “And number three, choose your attitudes.” Decide what attitude you will have. And if you don’t actively do that, your attitude will be chosen for you. (More often than not it’ll be decided by your emotions.)
I know you’ve heard me talk about choices over and over again. You’re probably getting sick of it! But so much of life is about the choices we make! And frankly, our emotions, our moods, and our attitudes are huge parts of who we are and how we react to the world around us!
Let me remind you of another quote. And this time I do remember who said it! Because it was Jesus! Jesus started off his greatest speech/sermon with this series of sayings called “The Beatitudes.” And it was masterful, by the way. Jesus was an amazing speaker, and he knew that these little sayings were great little “teasers.” They grabbed people’s attention right at the start. And they started them thinking. And, I think these are great little examples of attitude.
Think about “The Beatitudes.” Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are the meek… blessed are those who mourn…” Break it down into two words, “Be – attitudes.” These are “attitudes” that we should “be.” Notice, that Jesus was not just making statements about people with certain personality traits. “Blessed are the peacemakers…” The people’s reaction was not a matter of, “Gee I wish I were a peacemaker.” Jesus was teaching them about the kind of people he wanted them to be. He was really speaking more in the imperative. That is, he was directing them to do and to be something. He was saying, “Be peacemakers.” “Be meek.” “Be all these things.”
The Beatitudes were about attitude. They were about choices to be made. And I’m asking us now to think about thanksgiving as just that. May we choose to have the “attitude of gratitude.” May we have that mindset. And may that be lived out in expressions of thanksgiving. May we go out of our way to say thanks to others, to show appreciation, and by doing so be encouraging. May we remember always, but particularly now, to give thanks to God – in all circumstances, as Paul said. Again, does that mean we feel like it? When those circumstances are bad, do we feel like thanking God? And don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that we thank God for bad circumstances. But at those difficult times, do we feel like doing the opposite and concentrating on the things for which we are thankful? Probably not. But! Do we do them anyway? That’s the question. And I encourage you to do so. I encourage you to have, to cultivate, and to practice, the “attitude of gratitude.”
Now, this is also Stewardship Dedication Sunday – Pledge Sunday. And I want us not to think we’re talking about two different subjects here. I want us to put these two things together – the attitude of gratitude, and pledging. And that’s important, because, when the times are tough, when we’re running deficits, the tendency is to think about the tough circumstances. The tendency is to preach discipline and sacrifice, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with those things. But they are not, I don’t think, as important as thanksgiving! Yes we need to do our best in Stewardship, but we need to have – to choose to have – the attitude of gratitude in this, too. We need to thank God for what we have. We need to thank God for the good he has given us. We need to be in an attitude of praise and thanksgiving, because that empowers us! That puts us in God’s presence! That takes us to the glory!
I’ve been talking about that glory for five years now. From the very first, I said that we need to “get beyond the worries” – the money worries, that is – “and get on to the glory.” But let me tell you that the glory doesn’t wait to start until after the worries are gone! We can “get beyond the worries and on to the glory” even while the circumstances are still tough! And that makes all the difference in whether we will get out of those circumstances! (Amen?)
It’s not a matter of, “God, when we get beyond these tough times, boy are we going to thank you!” It’s “God we praise you, we thank you, and we give ourselves to you and to your glory right now!” (Amen!!)
We choose that attitude, and we continue to choose that attitude. It does so much for us. Someone once said, and I agree wholeheartedly, that you inspire more action with praise than you can ever urge with criticism. Isn’t that true? And we inspire actions – in ourselves as well as others – by our attitude of praise, much more so than we do when we beat ourselves up. That’s what attitudes do for us!
So here we are. We’re looking forward to a new year. It’s an anniversary year. This ministry has continued to the Glory of God for 125 years! That’s a lot to have a thankful attitude about! Each one of you is privileged to be part of that long line of the Saints of this church – and of the great church universal! You are the Saints of this church. In the classic definition, the Saints are not people who have died and are canonized. And that’s all well and good. But the Saints are the believers in the church. Paul addressed his letters to the “Saints at Ephesus,” or the “Saints in Philippi.”
So, you are the “Saints at Eddington.” And I encourage you Saints to join your hearts and minds in praise and thanksgiving to God! Be grateful, because his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness is to all generations! That means all the generations that have come before us, and it means this generation sitting right here today! God is steadfast! God is faithful! So, be thankful! Choose that “attitude of gratitude.”
Let us now prepare our hearts and minds, and with thanksgiving, bring our pledges before God! Let us choose the “Attitude of Gratitude.”
Eternal God, you have blessed us in ways we sometimes don’t even realize. We pray, Lord, that you would help us to be grateful people, people who seek to see your glory here in this place and in our lives each day. We praise you, and we thank you. And we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.