By Rev. Kristina Russell
Gratitude. Thankfulness, joyous gratitude. That’s what I’d like to talk briefly about today. Jesus, in our scripture for today, states that he is the bread of life. He is the ultimate gift, our true daily bread. Just hear the scripture from the Message Translation:
5 When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.
The Bread of Life
27 “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
28 To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”
29 Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”
30-31 They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32-33 Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”
34 They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”
35-38 Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.
There you have it. The bread of life. The ultimate gift of himself for us to be nourished and healed. What a joyous scripture to set off a discussion of the transforming power of gratitude.
Gratitude changes your perception. From a consciousness of lack to a consciousness of plenty in an instant. There are scientific studies out there that gratitude rewires your brain in a positive way. It causes endorphins and all those little chemical reactions that go along with happiness. Changing the way you think about what you have can alter your whole day. In AA we are charged with a daily gratitude list. Even on the worst days, starting that list can really help. One item leads to the next. Sobriety, God, fellowship, life, breathing, shelter, food. The list goes on and on and pretty soon you can’t help but feel better about everything.
Let’s take the word Grateful and assign a word to each letter. Let’s let that be ways to express and expand gratitude in our lives. It’s a device that works for me and I hope it helps you as well.
G is for God. The creator of the universe is madly in love with you. God is in your corner and believes in you. God created you for goodness and peace and loves you with an unsurpassed love. Begin to feel the love God has for you and add that to your gratitude list.
R is for repentance. To repent means simply to turn around. I’m not saying we’re miserable sinners but we are human. The ability to repent and change direction is a grace worthy of any gratitude list. You can start over anytime you can turn around any time of day or night and restart your journey. Repentance is for everyone regardless of circumstances. Anger, resentment, discontent, all can be altered by simply turning around and looking in the direction of Kingdom Love.
A is for adoration. Continuing to put God in the forefront of our lives and thanking God daily is a great practice. We gather on Sundays to worship and then have a whole week to fill with God. Adore God daily. Give God a thank you whenever you see a sunset, get that parking place, have a good meal, share something with someone you love. Practice Adoration every day and see how your gratitude list expands.
T is for time. In AA we say give time time. Time is fleeting but there is also enough of it. In today’s world time is taken up with work, internet searches and busyness but if we take a few moments of time every day to say thank you we will be blessed. Stop every day to gather your list and take those few moments to write down a few items to be grateful for. Finding time for God may wind up on your list!
E is for eternity. There is no expiration date on God’s goodness. God’s love is eternal and intimate. Jesus promise of food and drink through him is forever. We are part of that promise and the whisper of eternity in our souls is a great addition to our gratitude list!
F is for Forgiveness. This is a subject that has a million sermons in it all by itself but I think it needs to fall on a gratitude list. Forgiveness is for the one doing the forgiving. It takes the poison of resentment and dilutes it with love and healing. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean forgetting but it does mean letting go. Forgiveness should be on a gratitude list because it is almost the same as repentance. Turning around, changing the way you see things. Especially at the holidays when emotion and family drama is set to high forgiveness can create a new story and a new attitude. And a new story is perfect for our list!
U is for Unity. Relationships are a huge part of a gratitude list. Think of the relationships you have. Loved ones, friends, coworkers, your church family. Here at Evergreen we do Unity really well and Evergreen and its members are always on my gratitude list because it is a deep intimate relational unity here in our little gem of a church. Then there is the relationship we have with the whole body of Christ. Next Sunday we celebrate communion and welcome advent. We will be celebrating these things with millions around the world. What a beautiful body to be part of and what a privilege to take in the bread of life together. Definitely one for the list!
Finally L is for love. God’s love, human love, our pet’s love, parental love. God has lists and lists of kingdom love for us. Jesus stated it so beautifully today. He came to do the will of the one who sent him and that is our job as well. Scripture tells us that God is love and we are tasked with doing what love would do in a given situation. Love is also eternal and unending and we are heirs to it all. Love in all its risk and reward is a beautiful addition to any gratitude list.
So the word Grateful. God, repentance, adoration, time, eternity, forgiveness unity and love. Words to think about, words to take into Thanksgiving dinner and finally into advent and beyond. Words to take to those we know and don’t know. Words to carry God’s kingdom love to each and every person we meet. Jesus is the bread of life and life is better with gratitude! Amen
Diana Hunter is our Senior Pastor;