Sunday, 3 November 2013

Experiment in Gratitude October 27, 2013

Pentecost 24 year C Sermon 
Everybody got their order of service
and something to write with…raise your hand if you didn’t.

Ok before the service started I got you to circle how happy you felt at that time…

As a congregation we’ve done some very hard work over the past 23 weeks on the book of Revelation. So we need a little break…Last week Tom’s wonderful testimony
Today we’re going to do a Godly experiment
in which everyone can participate…

Here’ how we’re going to start…

Assignment slide
I want you to take five minutes to write a paragraph about someone who had an incredibly positive impact on your life. You won’t have to talk about it or share it with anyone…

I just want you to write.  I’m going to do the same.

They write for five minutes

Now have a look at some other people
did the same experiment.

Look at film

All the people reported some increase in happiness after that exercise. But those who expressed their gratitude outloud on the phone reported a bigger increase in happiness and the person who came in feeling the least happy reported four times more happiness after the experiment.

Blank writing slide
Scientists have found that exercises like this…that stir up feelings of gratitude actually elevate the human hormone serotonin –

that’s the hormone which is released into the blood naturally to help us deal with every day stress without falling apart.

Some people have more and some less serotonin – and when serotonin production gets really low- people can get clinically depressed.

Well isn’t it interesting that the feeling of gratitude seems to trigger the release of serotonin… sometimes even enough to
reduce physical pain.

Interesting isn’t it - because gratitude by its very nature distracts us from the negative stuff that’s going on

Now we all know that sometimes people…
even the people we love the most… let us down…

When this happens we don’t feel grateful to them at all
We don’t feel grateful to them for anything…in fact we feel irritated and frustrated and disappointed with them…
Just as psalm 118 says we can’t rely on humans all the time…

So where can we find some gratitude to help restore us a little

That’s right… there’s always one… to whom we can give thanks at any time…and for so very much…but that’s really only possible if we have faith isn’t it…

Listen again to the place of  thanksgiving in our gospel story for today…

10 Leppers slide
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, Jesus encountered ten men with leprosy…

Because they were considered unclean and Jesus was a rabbi they stood at a distance and shouted out to him
“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they walked away they were cleansed.

But one man, when he saw he was healed, came back to Jesus.

And praising God in a loud voice… he threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and this man was a Samaritan – by definition an unclean foreigner.

Jesus slide
And Jesus asked him, “Weren’t all ten of you cleansed? Where are the other nine?

Text slide
Has no one returned to give thanks to God except this foreigner? Then he said to him, “Rise and go;
your faith has made you well.

Your faith has made you well

Now it strikes me…that here Jesus is expressing two really important Christian spiritual principles…

Text slide with underlining
One – there’s a connection between giving thanks…and faith…And Two
there’s a connection between giving thanks… and wellness. Your faith has made you well!!!

Notice Jesus didn’t say your faith has made you clean – or healed your terrible skin disease…which is why he sent the healed men back to the priests…for the ritual of washing to enter the temple again…

Leper’s slide
Before they walk away…Jesus doesn’t say anything to the other nine about faith…just
show yourselves to the priests [pause]

Jesus slide
You see…God…the source of all life and goodness …and in this story…Jesus the Word of God… revealed in the flesh
already know there’s a link between gratitude and wellbeing … the link scientists in the 21st century are studying today.

God… who created the physics and chemistry of our brains and hormones…and our life-saving responses to danger and injustice like fear and anger…well…God knows every piece of the human puzzle. Especially our vulnerability to emotional and physical illness – we are not built to last here in this lifetime….

And God knows that one of the missing pieces in the human puzzle… can be gratitude…
And very often… we need to be reminded to feel it.

Twenty nine times… in the scriptures of the old and new testaments … we’re exhorted to give thanks to God….
Often with these words.

Text slide
Give thanks to God… for God is good,
God’s love endures forever…

Paul tells the earliest followers of Jesus in Thessalonians

Text slide
give thanks in all circumstances.
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Blank Jesus slide
But think about this for a minute…
atheists…people who simply don’t believe there is a God… Well, they’ve got no God to be grateful to…

and if all the people in their lives let them down…
how are they going to tap into that wonderful source of life and healing that gratitude brings?

When people let them down…they come to an emotional dead end… when they’re feeling rock bottom
and can’t even look out at the lake and the mountains
and say thank you… God for making this beautiful place …thank you God…I’m alive…Thank you God…
I can see and hear and touch…

But we can tap into… the spring of wellbeing that comes expressing gratitude through faith.

As Paul writes to Philippians
Text slide
The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving …present your requests to God.
And when you do that…Paul says…
Text slide
the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus