Sermon 09/13/20: Tiny Gratitudes (Pentecost XV)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 09/13/20. If illness or travel prevented you from joining us for worship Sunday, or if you would like to experience the worship again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a new tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN Bill & Gloria Gaither – Thank You [Live] ft. Ray Boltz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxntuF5Hrt8

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Marshall Hall – Thanks [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKklTvwbuDg

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Tiny Gratitudes
Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 1 Peter 1:6-9, 4:12-13
Series: Tiny Habits for Growing Christians
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley UMC Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. 9 As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

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HYMN Charlotte Ritchie, Jeff & Sheri Easter – In Everything Give Thanks (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcZ46aKpb_I

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

Photo images from NickyPe and others via Pixabay.

TRANSCRIPT

We’re talking about how we can be effective as Christian people, how we can do our ministry, how we can practice our faith in a day when everything has changed. And all the good old days and the good old ways and our most comfortable way of worshipping, our most comfortable way of serving, all the comfortable ways are no longer available. How do we be Christians today?

The nation of Israel dealt with the same problem. They were jerked out of Jerusalem. They were taken away from their temple. They were not allowed to worship as they had always worshipped, but they had to learn how to cope. And we do too.

And what I have suggested to you is that, if we change tiny things, those tiny things can make huge differences. And the first thing to adjust is this: Jesus is here no matter where we are. And we interact with Jesus out there at the grocery store. We interact with Jesus out there in the neighborhood. And he’s real out there. And we can worship and serve him out there and sometimes in new ways that are more fruitful and beneficial to actual people. Today.

Quick review. When you want to change a habit, try doing it in tiny ways. You look for an anchor, something you always do that’s as natural to you as brushing your teeth. And the new behavior that you want, tie it to that thing that’s already a habit so that when you brush your teeth, you pray a specific prayer.

I saw this week, on the Internet, a little video from Daniel Pink who’s a business school professor, and what he recommended was that when you wash your hands (anchor), be thankful (new, tiny habit). When you wash your hands, and he said at least for 20 seconds, that will give you time to think of what to be thankful for. When you wash your hands, be thankful. I suggested to you when you enter a room, declare that this room, this is a place where Jesus is Lord because it changes how you see that place. Tie the new behavior to something you already do.

And then the third thing is to celebrate because what Stanford professor B.J. Fogg says is that when you allow yourself to feel good, because Jesus is Lord, because of what you remembered when you washed your hands that you’re thankful for, if you allow yourselves to feel emotionally good– men, I know this will be a challenge! If you allow yourself to be emotionally happy– friends, if you’re grumpy, this will be difficult! But if you can find a little bit of happiness and celebrate, those emotions will be like cement that will glue this new habit into place in your life.

If you’re having trouble doing something that’s good for you, it’s very possible you’re not celebrating enough … that you need to give yourself a little jolt of joy to help you to want to go back and do it again because it feels so good.

When we understand the first commandment, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind,” you know the natural response to love is to feel joy. To have a desire to celebrate. We have so many reasons to celebrate. The way that God lives and is a part of our life today.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Happy 2020. My favorite joke about 2020 is this. I called my mom on the phone and reminded her that when I was a kid, she promised if I kept doing this or that, she would kick me into next year. And I said, “Mom, please, would you please come by and do that?”

I was sitting in my La-Z-Boy recliner and all of a sudden I heard this incredible sound of laughter from the woman on the couch next to me because she had seen this cartoon. If 2020 was an ice cream truck … see what the sign on the side says? It’s selling liver and onions and the kids are hiding. There’s at least one person here this morning who loves liver and onions. My dad loved liver and onions. He loved liver and onions so much my mom finally refused to ever cook it for him again. And he didn’t care. He would cook it himself. I want to tell you, I’ve had my entire life’s quota of liver and onions. So that’s me hiding on the side of the house there.
Now, you know why we make jokes? When something hurts, if we can laugh about it, it takes some of the pain away. When something is uncomfortable, if we can laugh about it– especially, if you can learn to laugh at yourself, you will never run out of reasons for laughing! But if you can laugh at it, it can’t scare you like it did before. One of the ways that human beings deal with stress is to laugh about it.

And so if you’re feeling down in the dumps, if you’re feeling depressed– and there’s a lot of depression around us. There’s even PTSD because of people living and dealing with ongoing pressure, which leads to depression. There’s a lot of it all around us. But if you can train yourself to change your emotions, you have a powerful remedy for how we feel. And here’s the first thing I absolutely want to tell you. You actually can change your emotions.

How many of us have been angry, have been sad, have been feeling anxious, and somebody told a joke and all of a sudden we were laughing and laughing and laughing (until the bad feelings came back). You can change your emotions instantly by telling a joke. Now we all know there are some people who can’t tell a joke at all.

And some people have said that I’m one of those, so I actually have a book. Some of you know this story. Kim and I have this book of jokes with us when we travel. Not so much because we get depressed when we drive down the road. Not so much because we get anxious. Not so much because we argue with each other.
But when we get tired, the one not driving, which is always me. The one that’s not driving starts reading jokes to the one that is driving. And you know, about one out of five actually causes her to chuckle. It keeps us awake.
You can change your emotions by something as simple as telling a joke.

Now I don’t go to scary movies. But just think about the last time you went to a scary movie. There you are with that hot date and you’re buying your ticket and you’re saying, “Oh boy, oh boy. I can’t wait to see this movie. I can’t wait to see this movie. Halloween number 26. Can’t wait to see this movie.” And the minute you’re in there, flickering light on a screen causes you to feel incredible emotions of fear. And you know in your mind that it’s just pictures. But you still feel it, don’t you? You still feel the feelings.
You can change your feelings by changing what you pay attention to. And one of the simplest ways to change what you’re paying attention to is to ask yourself the right question. One of the best questions for me is what’s funny about this? Because when I turn that self-deprecating humor on myself and I see some way I’m an idiot and all of a sudden, my arrogance, my anger, my frustration disappears. What’s funny about this?
A more serious question: Leo Buscaglia said that the thing that his father did that helped him to become a college professor, that helped him succeed in life, is every night before he went to sleep, his father came in and sat at the edge of the bed and said, “Leo, what did you learn today?” If you ask the question, “What can I learn from this?” it will direct your mind toward what will make a big difference.
The question I most recommend is this one. “What is God doing here? Right here right now?” Because you know something? God is trying to do something even in the most uncomfortable moments of your life. God is trying to do something even when there’s great pain and distress. If we can look at what God is doing, then we can add our little bit of effort to strengthening what God is doing for the benefit of everyone involved.
And the final question? It’s a really good one. B.J. Fogg recommends another tiny habit. This is one of his handful of basic habits. When you get in bed at night to sleep don’t fall asleep until you’ve made a mental list. What happened today for which you can feel gratitude? What happened today so that before I fall asleep I can be thankful?

There some people who recommend literally as a way to change your life to change your thinking habits to change your emotional habits to literally keep a gratitude journal so that when you’re frightened, take a moment to look on paper and read of all the good things that God has done, and it will change how you feel. Take a minute to look through all the kind and good things that people around you have done, and it will change how you feel. Being thankful … little gratitudes are very powerful to change how we feel when we’re stuck in a bad place because they change the focus of our attention from what we complain about to how we are blessed.
Here’s what scripture says about this. First Peter 4:12, beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you— I’ll explain what that means in just a moment. To prove you as though something strange were happening to you. Now if you’re a silversmith, if you’re a goldsmith, you know how you purify the metal? You turn up the heat until it melts, and all the garbage flows up to the top, and you can scrape it off. Friend, one of the reasons why the heat is being turned up on us is it brings up the garbage that’s buried deep inside. When it’s flowing on top you can scrape it off.

But don’t be surprised when that happens. It’s always going to rain sooner or later on a day when you want to go outside and play. Don’t be surprised, but rejoice on that day. Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings. It wasn’t easy for him. That you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. No matter what’s happening today guess what lies in wait in the future? Many good things.

It’s only September but some of us are already looking forward to Christmas. Many good things await in the future, but in this present moment sometimes there is difficulty. And we got to get through the present to get to the future, and if you’re Christmas obsessed, to get to the presents. Let what’s going to happen in the future change your perspective of what’s happening right now.
Peter writes, In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials. Why? Verse 7, so that the genuineness of your faith more precious than gold, which though perishable is tested by fire. You see … that’s the heat that brings up the garbage. We’re all going to be tested. We’re all going to be heated up. And what’s garbage is going to come up to the surface. It’s going to happen. Without having seen him, Peter goes on to say, “You love him, though you do not now see him. You believe in him and you rejoice. Rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy as the outcome of your faith, the outcome of practicing your faith, you obtain the salvation of your souls.”

So when things get tough, what is God’s will? Here it is. Rejoice always. Rejoice is always the choice that you have. Pray constantly. As the King James says, pray without ceasing. Because troubles drive us to pray. But finally, look at the 18th verse. “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Good days, bad days, and everywhere in between. Give thanks in all circumstances, for to be thankful, this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Now you and I sometimes may feel a little bit like this dog. There is a treat on your nose. It’s not fun to wait till you can have the treat. But notice the dog’s eyes: Are they focused on the treat? Or are they focused on the master who will give permission? We need to give thanks for what we have but can’t quite enjoy yet, knowing that the signal will come in a moment. And what’s resting on our nose will be ready for us to enjoy.

You can make choices that will change how you feel. It’s as simple as telling a joke. It’s as simple as asking a question.

It’s as simple as finding a good book. We have a library here in Kinmundy that is full of them.

But if books aren’t for you, there is a good movie. I looked at Kim yesterday and I said, “You know, if today’s a bad day, we need to pull Rat Race out of the bin and watch it again.” That’s her favorite crazy funny movie. It always works. But maybe for you it’s not a movie. Maybe it’s a comedy television show. Maybe it’s something as calming and simple as a jigsaw puzzle. Hopefully it’s not an ice cream sundae. I had one of those yesterday too, because too many of those can cause other problems! But there’s something that will bring you joy that you can choose. Choose to rejoice. Choose joy.

You can work at a goal till you win. This is the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. They were happy that day. And you can work toward a win, whatever that might be in your life and rejoice in it. And not only that — you could look back on it just as if it was yesterday and feel that joy again. You can think back over your victories, the good things that have happened, the days that you were a winner, and the feelings will come right back. And you’ll get to enjoy them again. Walk back through your memories and be thankful for every victorious moment.

There is always embedded in every difficult situation a reason to be thankful … if for no other reason than, as I have frequently said that is the Minnesota state motto which is, “Could be worse.” But to be honest, there’s always a reason to be thankful somewhere. Keep looking. And when you find it, celebrate. Whatever tiny piece of good is in the midst of whatever we struggle with.

When you’re looking for something to be thankful for, don’t go too far from home. Because there’s a whole lot of us that when we think about what would make us thankful, we think something like, “Well, I could go to France.” Unfortunately, with the pandemic, you can’t go to France.
“I could go to New York City.”
“I can go to a high school football game.”
If you look too far away from home, you’ll begin to think the thing that you need to be happy is something that’s far, far away because for many of us, for most of our lives, going on a trip, going on vacation, going to see the grandchildren, that’s been our choice when it’s time to rejoice. And we don’t always have that privilege. How much more wise it is for you to look for reasons to be happy right here right now. So don’t go too far.

How long has it been since you have rolled down a hill on your back on the grass? When you were a kid, this probably really caused a great deal of happiness, although if you were wearing a white wool sweater like this lamb is, your momma probably wasn’t too happy.
But you always have a choice of doing something that brings you joy. And if that’s not good enough and strong enough, I’d like to encourage you to take BJ Fogg’s advice. When you pray at night before you fall asleep, count your blessings. Look for ways that you can be thankful, and if you really want to make the power of this last, take a moment to make a list and literally write them down in what some people call a gratitude journal.

Because the day will come. You’ll need to open that journal and start reading backwards from today to previous days. To pull your emotions and your mind out of a dark place into a place that is full of God’s light and love and happiness. Because we always have a choice to be thankful. We always have a choice to rejoice.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, these are challenging days for some of us. Lord Jesus, these are difficult days for some of us. But these are harder days if we cannot hold onto the reality that life is not all difficulty. The day is not all darkness.
That you have given us in the midst of whatever we’re going through right here and right now something even if it’s just a memory of winning the World Series. You’ve given us something to be happy about.
Help us, Lord, just like a person drowning to grab onto that happy, thankful thing, like a life preserver … so that it can help us stay above the deep waters.
And so Lord, we ask that in the midst of difficult times, which these certainly are, that you would teach us how to be thankful. That you would teach us what it means to rejoice. And then throughout the day every time we do something that’s a good thing, Lord, help us to anchor it in our life by taking a moment to celebrate. We ask these things in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

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