Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Nov. 22, 2020
You know that there are scientifically proven ways to live healthier and longer lives. Exercise helps a lot. Weight management is important. Eating right can’t be overlooked, especially vegetables. It’s important not to smoke. And getting enough sleep is quite good for us. But do you know what else is on the list of scientifically proven things to help us live longer and healthier lives?
Being a grateful person is surprisingly beneficial. If you don’t believe me, just google, “The Benefits of Gratitude.” For instance, grateful people have been shown to have lower blood pressure, which helps them live longer. They’ve been found to have stronger immune systems, which is incredibly helpful. They get more sleep, have more energy, and more positive emotions. Gratitude is important and extremely beneficial!
Now, I know it may seem out of touch to be talking about gratitude during a pandemic? Thanksgiving during Covid will be different for most of us.
I saw guy interviewed on the news last night who had a great perspective. He said, “I’ve had 62 really good Thanksgivings in my life. This one makes me grateful for all the others.” The absences we feel can lead to gratitude, for they remind us of the blessings of past Thanksgivings with the people we love.
We’re studying the parables of Jesus this month.
Let’s look at Matthew 18:21ff (from “The Message” paraphrase translation)
21 At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”
Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.
“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.
“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’
“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt.
The message is pretty clear, isn’t it?
Even though the context is forgiveness, it applies to gratitude.
The Unforgiving Servant owed a debt he could never repay. But incredible grace was extended to him. His debt was cancelled.
Jesus’ point is that God has richly blessed us with amazing grace and unconditional love. Like the Servant, we’ve been blessed beyond measure.
St. John wrote, “How great is the love God has lavished upon us that we should be called Children of God.” – I John 3:1
The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 1:3
I absolutely love that phrase, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” How do you wrap your brain around that? – “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
Here’s a partial list!
God’s unconditional Love. Grace. Forgiveness. Salvation. Reconciliation with God. God’s constant Presence. The Promises of the Bible. The Promise of Eternal Life. The Gift of Holy Spirit. The Gift of Prayer. Earthly Purpose and Heavenly Peace.
None of these are of our doing. They’re gifts from God.
I can’t do anything to earn those gifts – freely given in grace.
The Servant didn’t deserve to have the huge debt forgiven. The King just extended incredible grace.
But then a strange thing happened. – the newly forgiven servant didn’t forgive someone else.
The greatness of the gift he’d received didn’t touch his heart.
He just doesn’t seem very grateful, does he?
His gratitude was blocked.
Lots of things can block gratitude – greed, $$$, coveting, lust, anxiety & stress, bitterness, anger, hurt, even a pandemic!
If I understand this parable correctly, it teaches us that gratitude starts with realizing that we have been richly blessed by God.
Gratitude is the spiritual awareness that we are blessed.
We’ve received precious gifts from God – life itself, life in the Spirit, Life Eternal.
Let’s each take a few moments and think about the gifts you’ve received that you did not earn or creative. They were just gifts from a loving God.
Thank You, God!