July 18, 2021
Sunday Worship, The Gift of Gratitude
This season we have been focusing our worship on The Gifts of a Sacred Summer:
The Gift of Love
The Gift of Nature
The Gift of Rest
This morning’s theme is The Gift of Gratitude.
In Diana Butler Bass’ book, Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, she says “Gratitude empowers us to stare at reality and overcome what is challenging, violent, and evil.” Gratitude is not a turning away from the world, but a turning toward it.
Lighting the Peace Lamp—
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love?
Call to Worship—Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with a song.
Know that the Lord is God, our maker to whom we belong;
we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.
Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and the courts with praise;
give thanks and bless God’s holy name.
Good indeed is the Lord, whose steadfast love is everlasting, whose faithfulness endures to all generations.
Gathering Song— You are Good, VT 33
- The Gift of Gratitude – Leslie Homer-Cattell
The Lord is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever, and God’s faithfulness to all generations. Among this morning’s readings on gratitude, it was this last verse of Psalm 100 that most caught my attention. I’ve long wondered: how do we experience God’s steadfast love at different stages in our lives? Are we more or less open to an awareness of God’s presence at different ages? How do we understand life and spirituality as children and youth, in our young adult and middle years, in the last third of life? Whatever age we are, how does God’s faithfulness come through?
And so this week, I invited CMCLers of various ages to read Psalm 100:4-5 and reflect briefly on a couple of questions. What is stirring gratitude in you these days? How have you experienced God’s steadfast love – recently or looking back over your life so far?
After all, as Anabaptists, one of our shared convictions is that we read the Bible together – not in isolation. We bring our own experiences and point of view to what we read; and we count on each other to do that, too. When read in community, the texts are enriched beyond our own reality at any given moment. Our understanding can be deepened or expanded.
I’m so grateful for those CMCLers who reflected with gratitude for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, and who we’ll be hearing from this morning. We’ll start with a five-year-old. While sipping purple kombucha on their porch, this child listened thoughtfully to my questions: What are you thankful for right now? How do you feel God’s love with you?
It’s a bit of a stream of consciousness, but listen now to this pure and authentic list of what this child is thankful for, including family, home, comfort food, as well as a bedtime song (see if you can catch the reference to mom singing “Seasons of Love” from the play Rent – “Five- hundred twenty-five-thousand six-hundred minutes…”) Later, this child’s pure joy and the spontaneous playfulness with which they look at clouds in the July sky seem to offer an invitation to those of us who are older: remember to delight in God’s creation! After talk-praying Anne Lamott’s essential prayers (Thanks. Help. Wow!), we end with Amen!
Children’s Time Gathering Song— Come and See, VT #282, Sung by CMCL on Jan 26, 2020
Children’s Time— Darrell Yoder
Offering—Thank you for your continued support of your congregation. Our budget supports our staff, our building, our congregational care, and our outreach commitments. We are grateful that this community can be a place to seek and give mutual aid and to reach out beyond our community, too. Thanks so much for being the church and giving to the work of the church.
There is no scarcity. There is no shortage. No lack of love, of compassion, of joy in the world. There is enough. There is more than enough.
Only fear and greed make us think otherwise.
No one need starve. There is enough land and enough food. No one need die of thirst. There is enough water. No one need live without mercy. There is no end to grace. And we are all instruments of grace. The more we give it, the more we share it, the more we use it, the more God makes. There is no scarcity of love. There is plenty. And always more.
-Rosemary Freeney Harding, from Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering; also VT 1024
Offering Hymn— Let Us Build a House, VT 36
- Gratitude for community in all seasons of life
“Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live…built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace…all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.” This is a new song to me – a reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness expressed in community.
Judith and Dan Laubach reflect now on gratitude for the presence and generosity of friends through all of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, 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. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
- Gratitude when facing the unknown
Rejoice in the Lord always…The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. As we all know, there are times in life when this is easier said than done. When we’ve lost a job or are struggling financially. When we look around and see injustice and heartache in the world. When we are dealing with something like cancer or another serious medical crisis.
Thank you to Jose Borrero for reflecting with gratitude on a time when he faced an unknown future.
Congregational Song— El Senyor es la meva forca (In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful), VT 118
- Gratitude as a spiritual practice
Finally, beloved, 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.
As Urbane Peachey reminded me this week, the natural order of creation offers ample evidence of God’s providence (as in “providing” for us) – without us even needing to ask. Certainly something for which to be deeply grateful.
So what does gratitude as a spiritual practice look like? Next, Laura Boll will share how gratitude is stirring in her these days as she practices playing closer attention to her surroundings.
Then Lila Garber will talk about choosing gratitude in later life since the passing of her husband, her life partner. She’ll also reflect on how our God-given gifts can expand our perspective in ways that can be enjoyed and shared with others.
- Laura Boll—
I recently was blessed by “close up photos” that a friend shared from a nature walk on the coast of Maine. This inspired me to find “close up” photos on my walk to work. I have been surprised at what has come into my view. I have walked the path across the Lititz pike bridge for years to the hospital and never really paid attention to the varied plants that are growing out of the cracks in the sidewalk. Previously I had only seen weeds and broken cement or sidewalk cracks, but with this attention to “close up” vision, I became amazed and impressed at the resilience of the plants. Despite apparently no soil they appear out of the tiniest crack or crevice in the cement, some identifiable as plantain, lambs quarter, dandelion, purslane, all, where there is no soil material for plant growth. My gratitude is for the inspiration to see my environment differently and pay increased attention on my walk to work. The green life emerging from the barren speaks to me of infinite hope, new growth and steadfastness. These abundant “weed” plants have inspired me to see signs of life and beauty in their intrepid presence “everywhere”. In gratitude, for this simple exercise of practising “close up” vision, to what is immediately in front of me, I am reminded that God’s love is so abundant everywhere in all the little things that I may overlook, enduring forever.
- Lila Garber
- Joining the psalmist in closing words of gratitude
Deep thanks to those CMCLers of all ages who reflected with us on gratitude this morning. With the psalmist, let us all say: the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Ps. 100:4-5
when there is nothing we can say,
we give you thanks
that your Spirit intercedes for us
with sighs too deep for words.
when there is nothing we can do,
we give you thanks
that you are working for good
in this world of struggle and pain.
when there is nothing else we know,
still we give you thanks
that nothing in life or in death,
nothing in heaven or on earth,
nothing in this world or the world to come
will ever separate us from your great love,
through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Closing Hymn—Loving Spirit, VT 697
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.
And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
Worship Leader: Christy Heatwole Kauffman
Song Leader: Marty Kelley
Sermon: Leslie Homer-Cattell with CMCL child, Judith & Dan Laubach, Jose Borrero, Laura Boll, Elizabeth Nissley, Lila Garber, Urbane Peachey
Children’s Time: Darrell Yoder
Tech host: Ken Nissley