A Daily Morsel of Gratitude

November 28, 2013

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Thanksgiving Day – Year C RCL

Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 100, 18-21, Philippians 4:4-9, John 6:25-35

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our national holiday for food and football…
fried turkeys, friends and family! (not necessarily in that order)

And if we take a moment amid the rolls and gravy, it’s a day that invites each of us to reflect upon what we are thankful for.

As I thought about this, the work of Brené Brown came to mind. She’s a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Some of you may have seen her TED Talks on you tube – I was fortunate to get to meet her and hear her speak at a symposium last February. Her research for the past 12 years has studied shame and vulnerability and out of that work, she has discovered ways people bring about joy in their lives.

In a video interview published last year, she shared insights about the link between joy and gratitude. She was surprised to find in her years of research, that the only people who described their lives as joyful were also those who actively practiced gratitude. She admitted

that in the beginning of her work she thought that she’d find the opposite to be true: “if you are joyful, that you should be grateful.” But it was actually the other way around. She found that “practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.”

http://www.pinterest.com/

She went on to explain that the practice of gratitude isn’t just feeling grateful, or having “an attitude of gratitude.” It’s having an intentional and tangible gratitude practice. Some people keep a gratitude journal, while others might pick a time each day to say out loud something they are grateful for.

For her family, each night at the dinner table, after saying grace, they go around the table and share something that they are grateful for. I’m guessing this may be a fairly common around dinner tables today – a day set aside for giving thanks – but to make it a daily practice, that’s a different story.

Yet she found that in doing this over the past few years, it makes her more aware of the things that are happening in her life and in the lives of her husband and two kids. Sometimes the things are small, like her 1st grade son’s gratitude for rocks and bugs, and that gratitude is enough.

I know that in our busy lives, it’s easy to get distracted by all the activities. In our consumer-centric society, proven once again by the creep of Christmas shopping into Thanksgiving Day, we can easily fall into the trap of always looking for MORE.

I used to find myself saying frequently “I can’t wait until…” and then was surprised that my weeks, months and years passed by so quickly… still waiting… what I had never seemed to be ENOUGH. But upon reflection, I realize that the “outside stuff” in my life wasn’t able to fill the “inside” void.

We find a similar situation at work in today’s text from John’s gospel. It opens with a group that after partaking in the feeding of the 5,000, they followed Jesus and his disciples across the lake to Capernaum. These people had witnessed how a young boy’s five barley loaves and two fishes, when Jesus gave thanks to God, this scarce amount of food became enough to feed the masses, and still have twelve baskets of leftovers!

Yet, here we find them, having already been fed, still looking for more from Jesus – more signs, more to fill their emptiness. Jesus tells them to stop trying to fill the voids in their life with perishable things… with the consumer items that we think we can’t live without. Instead, he tells them that they need to work for the food that endures for eternal life.

So they ask what they must do, and Jesus says, just believe that God sent him and he will give them what they need. But they wanted another sign, proof that he is worthy to be believed in, like Moses who provided the manna from heaven to their ancestors to eat in the desert. But, Jesus responds by pointing beyond Moses to God as the one who gives the true bread of heaven. In the same way, Jesus points beyond himself to God as the one who has put God’s seal on Jesus.

It is this gift from God that gives life to the world.

Then Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

This bread of life that is Jesus will quench the hunger and thirst of our souls. When we embrace God as the source of the gifts before us, the emptiness that causes us to continually say “I can’t wait until…” will be filled with the joy brought about by a practice of gratitude.

There is a song by Nichole Nordeman called “Gratitude” that is an example of this… the second verse says:

Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger’s view this time
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case . . .
We’ll give thanks to You
With gratitude
A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead
And if we never taste that bread

Her lyrics demonstrate that while we ask for what we want or need – daily bread, for our cups to be filled, for a roof over our heads – that may not be what we receive. But even if it isn’t, she still finds those things worthy of gratitude and gives thanks to God.

The song exemplifies Paul’s message to the Philippians when he says:

whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

IMG_0336-300x300So as we move from this day of Thanksgiving to the many days ahead that are also worthy of thanks, may we each day seek the daily bread that is life-giving, in Jesus Christ. Having been filled with that bread, I invite you to adopt a practice of gratitude for what we have now. With a constant refrain of thanksgiving, our gratitude becomes imprinted in our heart, and through it we are filled with the joy that brings eternal life!

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Brené Brown Interview Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IjSHUc7TXM

I invite your thoughts and insights.

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