On Being Thankful

Recently I was thinking about how much life has changed over the last several months, and how — thanks to COVID — we’re each discovering in our own ways how little we actually have control over.

It made me think of all the things I miss from “before”:  worshiping together in one location, sitting in a crowded stadium watching the Packers play football, laughing with family at one dinner table (and not over Zoom). At the same time, I realized how little gratitude I had for all those things when I had them.  How I rarely, or never, felt and expressed true thankfulness.

I think there may be a direct connection between how much control we think we have over parts of our lives, and the measure of our gratitude. Think about it. It’s simply impossible to be thankful or grateful to someone else when you think you’ve accomplished or experienced something all on your own merit.

If I think I have total control over the things in my life, then I’m it. There is no one else to thank. But friends, let me tell you: Every human being is a debtor. And until I admit how little I have sole control of, and how much difference others have made in my life, I’ll never truly be able to express appropriate gratitude.

Unfortunately, that’s what happens too often in my relationship with God. Saying thank you, showing gratitude, acknowledging God working in my life and the lives of others… How many opportunities have I allowed – continue to allow – to slip by?

Think about it. What gratitude and thankfulness is going unspoken in your life right now? How can we heighten our awareness of just how blessed we are, and then live out our gratitude? Pray with me…

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My Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings in my life. Thank you for providing me with wisdom and discernment in unsettling times. Thank you for providing me with strength and courage in frightening situations. Thank you for wrapping me in the reassurance of your love through scripture, and the working of the Holy Spirit through others during times when I think I’m completely alone. God, thank you. Jesus, thank you. Holy Spirit, thank you. Amen.

Kingdom Building

“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.” – N.T. Wright

Holy God, you have called us to follow in the way of your risen Son, and to care for those who are our companions, not only with words of comfort, but with acts of love. Seeking to be true friends of all, we offer our prayers on behalf of the church and the world. Guide us in the path of discipleship, so that, as you have blessed us, we may be a blessing for others, bringing the promise of the kingdom near by our words and deeds. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)

The Need to Apologize

Apologizing isn’t easy. Usually because we’ve done something we shouldn’t have–either intentionally or unintentionally–and caused someone else inconvenience or even pain, and now we need to face the person we wronged and try to say “sorry” for what we did. The guilt and the shame can feel paralyzing.

We can only hope they will forgive us – that’s up to them. But no matter how hard to do, we know that we need to apologize for our actions.

Psalm 51 is an apology written by King David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. It describes in sad detail the guilt and shame David felt as he approached God to apologize and repent. He begins by admitting to God and himself that what he did was wrong

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

And he begs God to forgive him and strengthen him…

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

David speaks his sin and sorrow aloud to God, knowing there is nothing he can do by himself to make up for his sin. He can only offer his brokenness to God, and repent…

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

As theologian Ellsworth Kalas points out in Longing to Pray, “Ultimately, the need to repent is even greater than the need to be forgiven. Something in the soul says, ‘I want desperately for our relationship to be restored; but above all, I want you to know how sorry I am that I have violated our friendship. To forgive is yours; to repent is mine.’”

God forgives our sins. We must remember our responsibility to tell him how sorry we are for those sins, and how thankful we are to receive his forgiveness.

Psalm 116

A psalm of gratitude and praise.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

I trusted in the Lord when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said,
    “Everyone is a liar.”

What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord
    in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.

Prayer for Peace and Calm

Dear Lord and Father of humankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

– John Greenleaf Whittier

 

You may be wondering why such difficulty has come into your life. However, the greater question is, “Lord, how do You plan to use this difficulty so I may serve You better?” — Charles Stanley

Jesus is King

No matter where we are this day, let us come together in one voice, joined as the Body of Christ by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to give thanks and praise to our Lord and Savior.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.

 

Mark 11:7-11

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts.

 

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It is right to praise you, Almighty God, for the acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. On this day he entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph, and was proclaimed as King of kings by those who spread their garments and branches of palm along his way. Let these branches be for us signs of his victory, and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life; who lives and reigns in glory with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer)

An Intercessory Prayer

From churchofengland.org

Let us pray to the Lord,

who is our refuge and stronghold.

For the health and well-being of our nation,

that all who are fearful and anxious

may be at peace and free from worry:

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

For the isolated and housebound,

that we may be alert to their needs,

and care for them in their vulnerability:

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

For our homes and families,

our schools and young people,

and all in any kind of need or distress:

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

For a blessing on our local community,

that our neighbourhoods may be places

of trust and friendship,

where all are known and cared for:

Lord, hear us,

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

We commend ourselves,

and all for whom we pray,

to the mercy and protection of God.

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.