Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life Sunday, April 19, 2015 Easter III.
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The Call to Worship
On this new morning and in every moment of our lives, gracious God,
ALL: from generation to generation, we praise your holy name.
Like our ancestors before us, we proclaim your greatness to our children,
ALL: for we have seen your deeds of power and witnessed your goodness in our lives.
As you have opened your hand to all, satisfying the desire of every living thing
All: open our hearts so that we might share the gifts we have received from you. Let us worship God in gratitude and joy!
(Responsive Calls to Worship – Concord Trinity United concordtrinity.org)
Equality is on our minds today, Holy One. We are grateful for the victories we have won. We are hopeful for the future. We spend this hour in this holy place praying for marriage equality, praying for justice, praying for good news, in your many names. Amen
A Reading from the wisdom of Alice Walker
“’Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot.”
A Reading from the wisdom of Melody Beattie
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
A reading from the Psalter (118.1, 5-6, 14, 21, 23-29)
Oh, thank God who is so good! Divine loving-kindness is forever. In my distress I prayed, and God answered me and rescued me. God is for me! How can I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? God is my strength and song when trouble seems fierce, and now God has given me the victory. I am so thankful to God for answering my prayer and lifting me up.
This is the Holy One’s doing, and it is marvelous to see! This is the day our God has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. O Source of Life, please help us. Save us. Give us success….
The Great I Am is our light. I present my offering…for you are my God, and I shall give you this thanks and this praise. Oh, give thanks to the Holy One who is so good! Divine loving-kindness is forever.
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"An Attitude of Gratitude"
Our reading from Alice Walker today reminds me of a famous quote by Meister Eckhart. “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Most of us, when we think of prayer, perhaps most often think of need or sorrow or fear. That is when we pray… asking God for something. Today I am reminded of what my grandmother would say before every meal, “Who will return thanks.” That was her way of asking who will pray before our meal today.
Today I think I understand why she said it that way. My grandmother knew what all the great mystics know… that whatever comes in our life returning our thanks to God for the loving kindness that is lavished upon is can lift our spirits, strengthen our resolve, give us courage, and fill our hearts with love so full that there is no room for anxiety, fear, and hatred.
In early sobriety I was taught that an attitude of gratitude can carry us through things we think we cannot bear. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18a teaches us “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…” All circumstances. And so today we give thanks for the rescue workers in Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan and all the regions affected by the earthquake and aftershocks. Likewise we thank you for the aid workers and evacuation teams in Chile keeping people safe from the erupting volcano there.
Thank you for the courage of those who lost loved ones in terrible accidents. Thank you for the fortitude and spirit of those who suffer severe injuries and fight their way back to health and wholeness of spirit. Thank you for those who minister to and care for those who never fully recover.
Thank you for this good earth. Thank you for those who commit their lives to preserving it for future generations. Thank you for softening the hearts of those who deny climate change and refuse to acknowledge humanity’s part in straining the resources of this beautiful world.
We give thanks for the freedoms that we enjoy in our countries and we give thanks for the hearts that love justice who work for equality for all people, who safeguard the dignity of every human being all made in the same image of the Creator of the Universe. Today we especially remember to give thanks for all the progress that has been made toward equality and freedom in the US as we contemplate the case for marriage equality that is coming before the Supreme Court of the United States in coming days. We join with many, many others across the continent today who are giving thanks for what has been and what it yet to come. We give thanks for Mary Benato and others who will argue the case before the court.
This week I attended yet another funeral and yet another burial. The family of a beautiful, brilliant, funny, 24 year old young man stood before an overflow congregation in a chapel and shared with us their memories of their beloved child and brother. We saw first hand in a video the charm and beauty of this human soul. We listened as these loving family members gave thanks for the mental health professionals who had done their best for him as mental illness robbed them of this beloved one.
In the continuing season of Eastertide we give thanks that all those who precede us in death are only separated from us for a little while. We give thanks for the assurance in the risen Christ that death is not the end and evil does not win in the end. Love triumphs over everything that challenges us in life.
And to access this loving kindness all we have to do is open our hearts as we return thanks to the Source of Life who gives us breath and causes our heart to beat in our chest. Let me say that again…. We can access everything good that the Spirit of Truth has in store for us by doing one simple thing, returning thanks to the One in whose image we are created.
The challenge is… it’s hard to remember to give thanks when trials and heartache come our way. We sort of naturally fall into self-pity and despair because we spend so much of our lives disconnected from the Source of Life. The way to combat it is to actively cultivate an active and persistent attitude of gratitude. We cannot defend against what disruptive or painful trials we will face in life because life itself includes some suffering for all of us. But we can be prepared for that day by rejoicing always, praying continually, and giving thanks in all things..
Let’s practice this week… giving thanks in all things, returning to the ground of our being no matter what comes our way. And on the day when life seems to difficult to bear let us covenant together to give thanks for each other and hold each other in prayer. I’ve said many times, I don’t know prayer works I just know it works.
Let us go forth giving thanks to God for every moment of every day. Amen.