Let’s Have an Attitude of Gratitude!
November 12, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Beware of the Scribes
38And in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."
The Widow's Offering
41And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43And he called his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I’d like to talk with you today about one simple idea – let’s have an attitude of gratitude. That’s our topic and our title for today. Let’s have an attitude of gratitude!
Did you ever have the experience with your car of starting off from a light and hearing the engine racing? You’re stepping on the gas, and the car is going, but something is wrong. The tachometer is too high; the engine is racing too much; the car is not going as fast as it should. So you give it a quick thought, and of course you look at the transmission, and lo and behold! you’re in the wrong gear. You have to shift it over to D4, or whatever it is in your car, to the appropriate gear for driving normally.
I’m suggesting to us this morning that perhaps we need to shift gears. For each of us, in our lives, maybe we need to shift into the gratitude gear. I think that if we shift into the gratitude gear, we’re going to be happier people. We’re going to be more peaceful people. We are going to be a more joyful people.
The scriptures this morning were really challenging, weren’t they? One of them was the story about Jesus and the widow, and her contribution to the temple. That’s kind of a disturbing scripture, isn’t it? If we take it as an economic message, then yes, it certainly is. But I wonder if that’s how Jesus really meant for us to interpret it. I think that Jesus meant for us to see that generous widow as a picture, as an icon, as a symbol of somebody who had God at the center of her life. Not at the fringe area, not as an afterthought, not as someone you think about after all the other problems are solved, but someone who is at the front and center of our lives. If we look at the story that way, then we can see that we can fit into the story, too. Is God at the center of our lives? That’s where Jesus wants God to be.
If God is at the center of our lives, I suggest to you that we are going to be very, very grateful people. I suggest to you that that widow was a very, very grateful person, and that she lived every day of her life with a knowledge and awareness of God. Toward that end, may I make a few suggestions for us?
First of all, let’s go back to that analogy of shifting into the gratitude gear. What gear are we in today? What gear were you in this morning? I submit to you that there are a bunch of gears that we could be in.
For instance, there is a gear that we might call worry. “How are things going to go?” “Is this going to work out okay?” “I wonder if I’ll be all right.” That’s one gear we could be in.
Anxiety – “what does the future hold?” “What future do I have?” Is that the gear we’re in? Is that where our thinking is?
How about regrets? “If I had only done this.” “If I had not done that.” “If I hadn’t invested in this firm’s stock.” “If only I’d bought property a couple of years ago.” Are we in regret gear?
How about paranoia gear? “I wonder if they like me.” “I wonder if that person doesn’t like me.” “I wonder what that look meant.” We can be in that gear.
We could wake up in the morning in any of those states of mind. I’m suggesting to us this morning that we shift gears, and that we find things to be grateful for. If we’re in the gratitude gear, then our lives will take on a different atmosphere. We will be more joyful. We will be able to live more productive lives. And you know what the bonus is? Good things will come our way, because we haven’t been rehearsing the worry and the anxiety and the regrets and the depression and the paranoia. We have to consciously shift the gear, even as we did in the car, into the kind of modality that will propel us well into the future.
I am not minimizing your problems. I am not saying you don’t have things to be worried about. I am not saying that we should be irresponsible. This room is filled with responsible people, with influential, intelligent, responsible people. I don’t minimize that for a minute. But I am saying this: all of us, all the time, have things we could potentially be worried about. And if we don’t, we could project about things that we might be worried about tomorrow. It’s a choice. Let’s shift into gratitude gear. When we find ourselves in one of those other gears, why not say, “Huh uh. I am going to make a shift here. I am going to think about the things that I am grateful for.”
Now, may I make a suggestion on this? Five minutes. Five minutes at a time. Five minutes, believe me, isn’t much. It’s a finger snap. I’ll bet we can manage, no matter what we’re going through, to be grateful for five minutes. So, this week, won’t you take a gratitude break? When you find yourself in one of those other gears, won’t you say, “Hmm, I’m going to take a gratitude break right now. I’m going to think about everything this five minutes that I am grateful for”?
And I submit to you that in any five minutes of our lives there are countless things to be thankful for. Take a gratitude break now and then, especially when all those other gears are threatening to overwhelm you or to freeze you up or to make the engine of your personality not work as well as it should. Take a five minute gratitude break to the Lord. And let the Lord know what you’re thankful for. You’ll be freeing up His supernatural power to send more goodness your way. It will be amazing, the flow of goodness that you engender.
One other thing, friends – won’t you be grateful to someone this week? Let’s make this gratitude week. Send a card to someone who needs to hear a thank you from you, to someone you need to thank. Send them a note. Let them know of your gratitude. As an extra-special bonus this morning, I am going to grant a dispensation. As a minister of the United Methodist Church, I am granting a dispensation to everyone this morning who thinks he or she should have sent a thank-you card a long time ago but didn’t get around to it. This morning you have full permission, and you can tell them so in your thank-you note. “I should have sent this thank-you note a long time ago, but I didn’t, and I felt bad. But the pastor said that it was okay, so I’m sending it to you today.” You’ve got the dispensation. It’s yours.
Take the moment; seize the moment; say the thank you. Oh, it goes such a long way, that contact, that caring. This week in the news you may have heard about a woman who was in an apartment building in New York City when a private airplane crashed into it, into her apartment. What a brave woman of faith she is! She had a lot of burns, but she is recovering well, and she gives great credit to God that she is even alive. She is tremendously grateful.
But she said, “You know what I wish? More than anything else, I wish that my mayor or my governor would have wished me well.” Now, of all the things she went through, of all the things she could have wished for, she wished that her mayor would have wished her well. I hope he does; after all this publicity, I hope he sends her a card.
Who knows who might be blessed by your thank-you? Who knows whose heart may be touched in a deep way by getting that note? And if you can’t write a note, send an email. If you can’t send an email, make a phone call. If you can’t make a phone call, say a prayer. But let’s let this be gratitude week. Come back to church next week, and when we gather, you’ll have the satisfaction of saying, “Hmm, yes, I sent that card.” “I wrote that email.” “I made that call.” “I said that prayer.” “I took five minutes to have a gratitude break.”
My friend, if you do, your life will be lighter and more joyful and more pleasant. You’ll be paving the way for blessings to come. Because God wants to bless you. God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski