Sermon November 7, 2021: Finding Gratitude (Pentecost 24)

Image by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:




If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate 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 Prayer of St 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

HYMN I Love To Tell The Story
Alan Jackson – I Love To Tell The Story (Live)

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Reinhold Niebuhr

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference … living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

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 There’s Something About That Name
Gaither Vocal Band – There’s Something About That Name [Live]

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

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: Finding Gratitude
Psalm 16:1-11; Romans 8:28
Series: Grateful

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Audio


Psalm 16:1 A Miktam of David. Preserve me, O God, for in thee I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “Thou art my Lord; I have no good apart from thee.” 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. 4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their libations of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; thou holdest my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. 10 For thou dost not give me up to Sheol, or let thy godly one see the Pit. 11 Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Romans 8:28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.


HYMN How Great Thou Art
Bill & Gloria Gaither – How Great Thou Art (Live)

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Please recommit your life to the service of Jesus as 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.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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


Finding gratitude in an age where gratitude can sometimes be very scarce.

You have to be of a certain age when you would remember people coming up to you and as a way to start a conversation, they would look at you and they would say, “What’s your sign?”

If you know what that is, that does date you! What’s your sign? And of course, what they’re referring to is your astrological sign, because everyone knows, or at least they thought they knew back then, that the day you were born determines everything about what you’re like. Everybody born on January 30th is exactly the same because they’re all in the age of Aquarius.

Well, friends, we have gone past the age of Aquarius today. We are now in the age of the coronavirus.

And I’m quite happy to imagine that we are moving toward a new age, a new time, something different because, certainly, hasn’t it been a challenge?

So what’s your sign? Well, here’s the new sign. You get out of your car and you look in your pockets and you find this sign to wear for everybody to see. (Pastor holds a health mask up as if it was a sign.) And people tell me that they can read my expressions, but I don’t really believe them.

When I’m walking around the store with this on and I’m smiling underneath of it, I think whoever I’m looking at doesn’t know that I’m smiling at them. Maybe they think I’m angry. Maybe they think I’m sticking out my tongue because when you wear a mask, no one can tell what’s in your heart … although, people tell me that you can tell by the eyes whether people are smiling, but the contortions and sort of ways that I wait to let people know I’m happy to see them causes me sometimes to worry that the sign that they are seeing is that they should not get too close to me … because I’m an odd and strange and dangerous person.

Nonetheless, people can see in your heart how you feel. Your face, your expression, the way you behave is like a sign that people can see, and friends, you and I have a choice about that. You and I have a choice about what people see when they look at us, the way we display what’s in our hearts. We have a choice as to what’s in our heart and we have a choice about how we feel.

One of the most dangerous, one of the most unhealthy things that you, in my opinion, can have as a way of thinking is to believe that you have no control whatsoever over your feelings. There’s a lot of people who feel that if they feel something, that authorizes them to act on it. That’s where you get road rage. That’s where you get acts of violence. Friends, you can choose how you feel. But to be honest, sometimes feelings are too powerful for us to overcome.

So I, to be more accurate, should say it this way: You can choose to influence how you feel. You can struggle against it. You don’t have to roll over and play dead whenever you’re scared. That’s what animals do, they play dead when they’re frightened. You don’t have to jump up and start a fight when you feel angry. You can make a choice to let healthy feelings live in your heart. And you also can make a choice to let unhealthy feelings come pouring out of you. I hope God gives you the power to make a good choice because one of the choices that we can always make is to choose to be grateful.

Black Friday is coming. Do you remember the last Black Friday? Once upon a time, a Methodist, someone you might know, was driving through the parking lot at the mall looking for a parking space because you know all those giant television sets that were half price? If she couldn’t get there in time, they’d all be gone. And as she drove from one part of the lot to another, not seeing a single open parking space. She decided, being a good Methodist, that she would begin to pray: “Lord, I need a parking space.” And she drove up and down, perhaps a little too fast. “Lord, I need a parking space. I need a parking space, Lord. If you’ll give me a parking space, I’ll go to church more than once a month. Lord, if you’ll give me a parking space, I’ll increase what I give on Sundays. Lord, if you give me a parking space, I’ll even be extra nice to that neighbor who I really, really hate.” And she went on and on like this and went from one corner of the lot to another, and all of a sudden, as she was praying earnestly and deeply promising all these things to God, she turned a corner, and there it was: an open parking space. And she said, “Lord, never mind, I found one myself.”

And you see friends, that’s the problem. We don’t notice God working. Because, if we notice God working, we’d be grateful. If you came around a corner and assume that that open parking space was a gift from God, you would be grateful.

And it’s not that we’re ungrateful, I think, by nature. I think we’re just distracted by things that are not that important. Grateful slows you down. Thank you, Lord, for helping me. Grateful turns our attention to what God is doing to help us and sometimes turns our attention from the attractions of the world that distract us from what’s valuable and what’s important. Grateful helps us to notice God at work.

This is an interesting event on May 4th, 1451 B.C. – the word of the Lord came through the Prophet Moses to the people of Israel, “Go home tonight and sacrifice a lamb and take the blood from the lamb, dip a hyssop branch in the bowl and put it on the doorpost and also put it on the lintel overhead.” By the way, have you ever seen that motion before? Put it on the doorpost, put it on the lintel. If we saw somebody doing that today, we would say they’re making the sign of the cross.

I found this photo of marking the doorposts and the lintel at Passover online on a website where someone was using it as an example that God is not omniscient. That this, they said, was proof that God was not omniscient. Now the word “omniscient” means God knows everything. And so the atheist who was working hard and rather stupidly to convince me that God was not all-knowing, his whole point was that this was proof because God needed the people of Israel to mark where they lived because that night, the angel of death was coming and as Moses said, “When the angel sees the blood … judgment will pass over you.” So the point of the atheist was God didn’t actually know where the Jewish people lived so they had to provide a sign.

Well, of course, brothers and sisters, sometimes the things that God tells us to do, sometimes the signs that God tells us to put up are for us to know who we are … because angels don’t need them.

And what I find interesting about this, because God commanded them to do this 1,451 years before Jesus was born, 1,454 years before Jesus was crucified and you may not know this, but the sign of the cross in the blood of the lamb was a part of Jewish history every year right on up to 522 B.C. and beyond. Not that they stopped celebrating Passover, but 522 B.C. is the first historical record of a person ever being crucified. You see the Persians invented crucifixion about a thousand years after Jewish people began celebrating every year the sign of the cross in the blood of the lamb, that would set them free, that would keep them safe. And none of it made sense until Jesus dies on the cross at the precise time that the temple priests were slaughtering the Passover lambs.

Sometimes the sign is for us. It can be interpreted in many different ways. But sometimes the sign is for us. And so when I look back now, thousands of years later and I think of that sign of the blood of the lamb in the shape of a cross, it tells me that God is working in our lives in ways that we often simply don’t understand. God is working in our lives in ways that we simply do not notice. But if we choose to be grateful, we will see far more of how God is working.

A Psalm of David, Psalm 16. The amazing things about the Psalms, the Psalms are full of whining and complaining. It’s very interesting. They are an art form of complaining about what’s going wrong. But by the end of the Psalm, the heart of the person complaining turns around to give thanks and praise God. Some Psalms, of course, are simply about how wonderful God is, and this is one of them. Psalm 16:1, Preserve me, oh God, for in thee I take refuge. We take refuge behind the sign of the blood of the lamb. I say to the Lord, thou art, my Lord, I have no good apart from thee. As for the Saints in the land, they are the noble and whom is all my delight. Those who choose another God, multiply their sorrows. Their libations, their drinks of blood, I will not pour out as a sacrifice or take their names of these false gods upon my lips. Why? Because the Lord is my choice. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. Thou holdest my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Yea, I have a goodly heritage.

I look back on the years of my life, and there are good times and bad times, there are easy times and hard times, there are times in the light and times in the dark. But as I look back on the memory of my life, I can say I have a goodly heritage. I feel that God has blessed me more than I deserve. And this is one of the truths, brothers and sisters. If you’re in a dark and frightening place, the darker it gets, the brighter you will find is that little sliver of light that is under the door by which you can move out of the darkness. If all you look at is the dark, it will become more and more frightening. But if in the dark, you begin to look for the light, the light of God will show you the path out of darkness into light. It will show you the path through the valley of the shadow of death, to the place of green pastures and still waters. Look for the light when the darkness is great and deep.

Verse 7, “I bless The Lord who gives me counsel. In the night, also, my heart instructs me.” God is going to advise you. God is going to speak into your heart to instruct you. And if you are older – I’m 66 – you will find all too often God will decide to give you advice in the middle of the night when you would much rather be sleeping! Has that been true for you? And so, like the little boy, Samuel, I find myself saying in the middle of the night when it’s hard to go back to sleep, “Lord, speak, for your servant is listening. This worry that I have that’s keeping me awake, what is it you want me to do? Help me to find the light in the dark so that I can move forward.” “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel. In the night, also, my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me. And because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices. My body also dwells secure. Where thou dost not give me up to Sheol or let thy godly ones see the pit thou. Thou dost show me the path of life. And in thy presence, there is fullness of joy. And thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

As Paul said so simply in the New Testament, Romans 8:28, “We know that in everything,” not just in a few things, and not just on a good day, and not just after we’ve been to church, we know that in everything, on every day and every place, God works. God is working for good. God is working for good with those who love him who are called according to his purpose. God is working in everything.

Do you know what the difference is? Whether we notice that God is working – because if you can see what God’s doing, you can be grateful. If you can see what God’s doing, you can go toward the light. If you can see what God’s doing, you can open the door that takes you out of a bad place. If you can see what God’s doing, you can add your shoulder so that you and God are working together to make things better. But, friends, if you don’t see that God is working in everything, that opens the door to despair, to hopelessness, to helplessness, to everything that harms and shames us intellectually and emotionally. And it says, of course, in science that what harms us emotionally will in turn in time from our physical health.

It’s good for us to be able to look for how God is working because if you look for how God is working, the counsel of God in the night will help you to see what God is doing. Until we see what God is doing, all we can do is complain about how it’s too windy. But the minute you begin to ask the question, what’s the benefit that comes from things being too windy? What’s the benefit that comes from the circumstance in which I find myself? This place where I am, I don’t like it. But how can I turn it to a benefit? If you make the choice to think like that, to turn your attention from what’s wrong to what could be right, you can often choose a better emotional state for yourself.

For the past six weeks, we’ve been talking about prayer in James. Do you remember this Sunday, a few weeks ago, James just plainly, simply says: “You have not because you asked not.” Friends, if the prayer that it “not be as windy” is not one that God answered, sometimes we just keep praying, “Lord, take the wind away!” Whereas perhaps it might be wiser not for us to ask for the whole world to change but instead to ask God to help us change how we look at things. To change our perspective. To change our perception. Because friends, when it’s too dark or too windy or too unpleasant or too painful or too depressing or too sad, it’s very possible that we could pray for God to give us a better grasp of reality. To see all the possibilities because then, we can pray in cooperation with what God is doing.

Do you know what’s really wrong with this prayer of taking the wind away? It’s a prayer that God does everything while we sit back in our La-Z-Boy chair and wait for God to do everything. Because friends, sometimes you and I get to do something. You don’t know what to ask for because you haven’t really noticed the value, any value in the reality that God has provided to us. And that’s why we have to remember, in everything, God works for good. In everything, God works for good. Because a change in your perception of reality can change everything in your life. From “Good can’t happen” to “With my prayers, with my efforts, with my work, God can bring me out of this.”

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, it’s a choice for us to be grateful. But it’s awfully hard to be grateful when we can’t see any reason to be grateful, when we cannot see any advantage, when we cannot see any benefit. Lord, it is so hard to be grateful when all we want to do is curl up and give up and die. Lord, help us to surrender to you rather than to the sorts of feelings that pull us down and hold us back. Lord, remind us that you are at work in everything. Remind us that we always have a choice. And if we don’t see a reason to be grateful, Lord, we can look for one. We can ask you to open our eyes. We can ask you to help us to see. We can ask you to deepen our understanding. Lord, show us a reason to be thankful when everything is not going the way we would wish. Lord, I ask for your help for myself and for all of us in the name of Jesus 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.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis )

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