November 21, 2018
A Lifestyle of Gratitude
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).”
When the Apostle Paul called upon us to “give thanks in all circumstances” he was pointing toward a richer, fuller, more abundant way of living than many will experience. A lifestyle of gratitude requires discipline and commitment. The truth is, it’s far easier to be focused on the dark side of life: the things that frighten or worry us, the challenges we face or the people or situations that make us angry. Test this out sometime. The next time you wake up in the middle of the night, pay attention to where your thoughts want to take you. For many of us, those unguarded moments lead us toward fear, doubt and worry. Similarly, notice how easy it is for conversations to drift toward the negative. In any given setting it’s not uncommon to hear talk migrate toward complaints about politicians, gossip about neighbors or even murmurings about the weather.
It requires little or no energy to be focused on the darkness; but such a mindset comes at a very high cost. The absence of joy is the price we pay for our habitual negative focus.
On the other hand, as I’ve noted above, gratitude requires discipline. Most of us must be deliberate if we are to be attentive to the gifts and opportunities that are ours at any moment. But while a lifestyle of gratitude requires energy, over time it has a formative impact on us. People who practice gratitude have a higher capacity for joy.
In his book The Good and Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith recommends the very simple practice of counting our blessings. Smith suggests that we make out a long list of the things for which we are grateful. Include things large or small, remarkable or ordinary. Write down the people, events, material blessings, and daily gifts that enhance your existence. Notice and pay attention to all that is provided every day simply to sustain life: the gift of food and water, the air you breathe, the remarkable things your body can do. Notice how fabulous it is to be able to read, to carry on a conversation, to play or listen to music. When you begin to make out your list you will see that it could soon sprawl a country mile because you will find new items to add every day.
October 31, 2018
We continue to reflect on the Biblical call to live our lives on a sacred adventure. I believe that we are living at a time where this sense of call to adventure is particularly poignant. Many of our generation have grown tired of merely living as consumers, gathering up all that we can in our brief span of life. We sense that there is something more, that we are called into adventure by the love of God and for the love of God. While this call is real, and I believe that many today feel compelled to adventurous living, there is also significant resistance to this call. Two Sundays ago, October 20, I asked you to consider how the twin desires for comfort and convention can form a resistance to the longing for adventure. While we want to be willing to live with risk and courage, we also want to be comfortable and to do things the ways we’ve always done them. It’s as though we want to push on the gas pedal and the break at the same time.
Last Sunday, October 28, we considered a very different resistance to sacred adventure. We looked at what happens when the call to sacred adventure is twisted and becomes a reckless adventure. Where this happens, we live without boundary, wisdom or patience. We observed how, in the narrative of Abram, Sarai and Hagar a reckless adventure formed that created enormous pain and brokenness. Still, we saw that God continues to call, even amid our worst failures, back into the sacred adventure of love.
Our attention will turn now in the next two weeks to a word that is at the heart of the adventure: renewal. As we journey, God is acting to renew us day by day. What does it mean to give ourselves to God’s renewing work? What does it mean for us to be, as scripture says, “a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)?” I hope you’ll meditate on these passages in preparation for each of the next two Sundays:
November 4, John 3:1-10
November 11, Ephesians 4:7-16.
October 17, 2018
The Call to Sacred Adventure
While doing some business at a local bank earlier this week, I explained to the teller that Dawn and I have recently returned to Anderson and are in the process of making this community our new long-term home. When she asked what brought us back to Madison County I said, “I’ve accepted a call to be the lead pastor of South Meridian Church of God.” As those words rolled off my tongue I felt a profound sense of gratitude, excitement and challenge: gratitude because I believe that God has led Dawn and I to this place; excitement because of the opportunities we will have to love, grow and serve together; and challenge because this is a new adventure! Like all adventures, this one includes elements of risk and uncertainty and, most importantly, opportunities for growth and renewal.
I believe that God calls us to adventure. There is always something breathtaking and new about the ways that God calls. This is evident in the passage we considered last Sunday, October 14, when we heard God’s call to Abram: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you (Genesis 12:1).” This call led Abram and Sarai out of their settled place, the land of Haran, and onto an adventure in which they did not yet know the destination! Abram and Sarai took the first steps of this adventure because of their abiding faith that God who had called them is good.
During the months of October and November we’ll continue to explore the theme The Sacred Adventure. I invite you to read and meditate on these passages as part of your own preparation for worship:
October 20: Matthew 8:18-22
October 27: Genesis 16:1-6
November 4: John 3:1-10
November 11: Ephesians 4:7-16
November 18: Mark 1:14-15, 31-32
I also invite you to memorize this simple prayer penned by author N.T. Wright. This prayer for renewal captures something that is right at the heart of the sacred adventure. I hope it will become your close companion:
Holy Spirit, Breath of God
Renew Me and All of Creation
Allow me to express once again how very thankful Dawn and I are to ‘do church’ with South Meridian Church of God. Thank you for the many ways you have extended your hospitality to us. We’re on a sacred adventure together with you!
-Pastor Steve Wimmer