My train of thought during a sermon…

11 11 2008

The church I have been attending regularly has what might be called sermon series.  …we focus on one topic for several weeks.  We are currently in the middle of a series on “giving thanks.”  (With thanksgiving coming up and all).  …this Sunday, the term “thanksliving” was even used.  When I first saw it in the bulletin I thought it was a typo; I figured someone had accidentally hit the “L” key instead of the “G” key… but then I saw it in another place: thanksLiving.

One of the questions the pastor had us reflect on before he started the sermon was: “What are the barriers to you giving thanks?”  …and also, “What blessings are you overlooking?”

Now, what I’m about to share is my train of thought during the sermon… initially in response to the questions, but then apparently not related at all.  (This seems to happen more often than not… I very easily follow tangents… and I sometimes do my best thinking when someone is giving a sermon.  …is that bad?)

My initial response was to the question, “What are the barriers to you giving thanks?” was this:  I feel like when you’ve been blessed for your whole life, it’s sometimes difficult to be thankful for – or to even recognize – the blessings.  When I look back at my life (my family, friends, experiences, opportunities) it so obvious I’ve been blessed more than I can even recognize.  So this can make it difficult to see current blessings, because you come to expect them.  …it’s almost as if you think you deserve them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! (“Woe is me…. it’s SO hard to see my blessings!”) – I wouldn’t trade my past for anything.

Then somehow, during the sermon, my brain made a shift: “It is so easy to point fingers.  To say ‘look what they did” … ‘how could they do that?'”  (Admittedly this was probably due to some reading I had done earlier in the day about the history of the American colonists – I never realized how awful some of the things they did were).  …then my brain turned it on me: “…ah yes, but the question should also be focused on ourselves – ‘What have we done?’ … ‘What have I done?'”

This reminded me of something I had read a few years ago by Henri Nouwen.  He said something along the lines of… Being compassionate means that you are able to forgive others, because you recognize that in your humanness you are capable of the exact same things.  So when I shake my head in disgust at the colonists, I should also be reminding myself that I too am capable of such things.

This then reminded me of something I had heard lately (maybe when I was still in NY?).  The phrase, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  It’s the idea that when you see a condemned criminal you recognize that that could be you… if not for the grace of God, I could have turned out differently.

And this reminds me that everything is because of Grace.  …the life I’ve had – my family, my friends, my experiences.  It’s all been Grace.  …it’s all a gift.  Every breath is a gift.  Every morning is a gift.  Every encounter is a gift.

…and that brought us back to the beginning.  To thanks-giving.

(See, my thoughts during sermons do somehow connect…)

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2 responses

11 11 2008
Phil

I also think well and write notes for my future messages while listening to the sermon…usually my bulletin is covered in notes.

Are you liking this new church? What’s it like? Denom affiliated?

11 11 2008
Tim

It’s not your typical church. …or at least not what I’m use to. It’s a church plant from within the last year or so… meets in the basement of another church. Really diverse (I think probably less than 50% white! – or at least close). They eat supper together every Sunday after church. And they’re committed to serving the community.

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