Remember Your Gratitude
Six days after my husband Jonathan and I got married, we moved to graduate school across the country.
We packed up our U-Haul with our second hand furniture and wedding gifts;
drove across PA and through the Bronx to New Haven, CT.
When we got to our apartment at school, we started to unload the truck.
Trip after trip to the second floor in the hot August sun quickly wore us out.
I had to sit down on the curb, I was so dizzy.
Just then a guy came out the door.
He was clearly going somewhere, but when he saw Jonathan and the truck,
And me on the curb, he stopped to help.
His wife brought me in the cool of their apartment and gave me OJ to drink,
While the husband helped Jonathan bring in the remaining furniture.
We were so grateful—
We did nothing to deserve their help; they didn’t know us from Adam.
And yet they stepped in and gave us exactly what we needed.
After we had settled in, we had them over for dinner.
We didn’t have much money, so we offered what we did have-
a love for cooking and newly acquired kitchen gadgets.
We made homemade pasta and fresh baked bread and frozen chocolate mousse for dessert.
It was the best thank you we could muster—it was gratitude from the heart.
We never became close friends, but I vowed I would never forget their kindness to us.
Two years later, another family was moving in.
I saw them out the window of my apartment while I was cleaning.
They were shouldering a love seat couch up the stairs into the building,
while their 2 year old toddled behind.
Now, what I should have done at this point, was go outside and offer to help.
But I am ashamed to say I didn’t.
It was like I had some kind of amnesia.
I didn’t think about the fact that just a short time ago, I had been in the same position
and someone had helped me out.
I didn’t remember how thankful I felt knowing there was someone who cared for me
in a city of strangers.
In short, I had forgotten my gratitude, and the new family struggled on by themselves.
That’s the context for our reading from Hebrews today:
a whole group of people who have forgotten their gratitude.
The letter was written for Jewish converts to Christianity.
They had at one time been passionate about their faith.
They welcomed the freedom from sin and death that Jesus brought
and they responded with fearless acts of love and kindness to the needy.
They did this even though it usually meant breaking with the rest of the family
and being shunned by polite society.
But by now, the time of this letter, their faith was waxing cold.
Worship was lackluster, and they didn’t do much beyond that.
The traditional Christian emphasis on sacrificial care for others was by and large forgotten.
Some didn’t even come to worship, and were perhaps thinking of leaving the faith altogether.
So the author of Hebrews, an evangelist who had worked in their community,
wrote to remind them of just what an incredible gift they have in Jesus.
His message was this:
Jesus is like the high priest in the temple.
But instead of offering sacrifices over and over, always trying to undo the effects of sin,
Jesus has made one offering that works once and for all.
Sin and death have been given the final blow.
And now, instead of just the high priest being able to meet God in the sanctuary,
we all have access to God’s grace through Jesus.
Now it is hard for us as non-Jews and modern people to understand just how radical this was.
But imagine that you believed that God could be found in only one place on earth—
And that was right there (point to altar).
But you would never see that place—imagine that the altar was contained in its own room
shrouded in curtains.
No one would be able to go into that holy place.
Only the highest ranking person could go in—and only once a year.
That was as close as anyone got to God.
Now imagine that someone has told you that they touched God, that they lived with God.
Imagine hearing those stories for the first time, and coming to believe that this man, Jesus,
who healed and taught, and finally died on a cross, was indeed the Son of God.
And what would it be like, to think of this man, not moldering the tomb,
and more than that: his Spirit alive in you!
Because of Jesus, you can know God and live with God, here and now!
Because of Jesus, God accepts you.
God forgives you.
and God wants to use you to pass it on.
Can you imagine the gratitude?
Like me getting help moving in, none of us deserve this kind of love.
None of us have earned God’s help and acceptance.
What kind of offering would you make for the one who gave everything to you?
You’d do what I did—take the best of what you have, and share it—Joyfully!
Unless you have amnesia;
unless you have forgotten when you were in need, God sent help.
Unless you have forgotten that when you thought you were alone, God was there.
In the phone call of a friend, the prayers of your church, in the kindness of a stranger.
Unless you have forgotten that Jesus loved you enough to die for you.
Then you don’t share much of anything, you just slog it out by yourself.
It seems to me that gratitude has two parts: the words and doing.
The words are, of course, saying thank you: to people, to the good earth, to God.
The doing is how you live that thank you every day.
And that’s the theme of our stewardship campaign this month.
We’re calling it, “We are an offering,” after St Paul’s words in Romans
to “present yourselves as a living sacrifice.”
What we are inviting you to do is to not only remember your gratitude, but also to share with us
how you live out your gratitude on a day to day basis.
We are going to pass the microphone at the time of the offering today and next week
for anyone who wishes to say a few sentences about how you live out your faith.
We also have this “Thankfulness Tree,” made by Lisa Jaksina.
You can write how you offer your life in service back to God, and place it on the tree.
And of course, being budget time for the our church, we will also make available pledge cards
so that your financial priorities can be a part of the way you live out your gratitude.
Gratitude has two parts: the words, and the doing.
In my apartment days, I seemed to have the first, and fall down on the second.
Maybe you’ve had the same experience.
The Hebrews did.
So the author of this letter encouraged them, and encourages us:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering! For the One who has promised is faithful.
And that’s the part that is most important: God is faithful.
Whether we forget our gratitude or live it out, God is always there for us.
So let’s spread that Good News around, and be of service to God for the sake of the world God loves.
Who’s your favorite super hero?
How about this one? My favorites were the Wonder Twins.
Why are super heros so popular? Big problems, need solution.
We have a kind of story like that in our OT lesson and Gospel today. Apocalyptic Literature.
Apocalypse is a story about the end of the world.
These bible stories tell how God is active even when it feels like the world is falling apart.
In OT, arch angel Michael is the super hero. In Gospel, it’s Jesus.
They assure us everything is going to turn out ok.
What big problems that need solutions do we have today?
Even though bad things happen, Apocalyptic literature of the Bible assures us that God is working in and through us.