Be Grateful

Importance of saying Thank You…. Luke 17: 11-19

There is something I think I can guarantee we all want.  There is something that we all look for.  There is something you would spend a lot of money for.  There is something I bet you wish your neighbour has too.  I’m thinking of happiness.  You and I want to be happy, we want everyone to be happy.

Happiness is a strange thing.  Actually I don’t think you can buy it. 

Rich people are often unhappy people and people with not so much are often happier people.

Maybe happiness can be linked to circumstance.  When everything goes sweetly in our lives we can be happy.  But then I think of people I know who seem to have all sorts of misfortune and who radiate a sense of happiness. 

I have a hunch that happiness is closely connected with something else in our lives – our sense of gratefulness.  Happy people are grateful people.  One of the quotes on our service sheet says simply, ‘you cannot be truly happy without being grateful first’.  

Wealthy people are often unhappy because they simply want more and they are not grateful for what they have.  People who have great misfortune can radiate happiness because they still have a sense of gratitude even though life has dished up some hard times. 

Without gratefulness I don’t think we can be truly happy.

But what is gratefulness?  Where does gratefulness come from.  Two people can watch a magnificent sunset and one goes, ‘ho hum the sun has set nice colours’, and the other goes, ‘wow, what an amazing  magnificent sight, how fortunate I have been to be part of it.’  Gratefulness arises within us when we experience something we value as a gift.  We experience something we value like a magnificent sunset and we know we haven’t made it happen, we haven’t earned it, we haven’t purchased it.  It’s generous gift to us.   Religious people will often say it is a gift from God.  You can probably think of some amazing experiences for which you’ve been grateful.  Sun rise, birth of a child, someone listening, the love of a friend, shelter in a storm.  When we are grateful happiness is not far away.

Have you noticed some people are grateful people.  They radiate a deep happiness.  You sometimes wonder what they’ve been smoking.  I wonder how they do it?  Part of coming to worship every Sunday is an opportunity to be grateful.  We sing songs of thanks, we offer prayers of gratefulness and thanksgiving.  Our liturgy encourages us to develop thankful grateful hearts through our worship together.  I think we often miss the opportunity. 

 I think we often miss the opportunity in our daily lives to be grateful.  We are too busy, we are too preoccupied and living out of the moment, we are anxious and fearful, we are too worried about what others think, or standing out in some way.  What if we saw every moment of our lives as amazing gift, as opportunity?  I think we would be happier.

I’m not saying we should be grateful for everything that happens, because there are plenty of things in life that we should not be thankful for… violence, war, loss of someone we value, uncaring hurtfulness, but we can be grateful in every moment even when we are confronted with pain and conflict.  In every moment there will be opportunities for good.  I can be grateful for that.  Why is it for example that when I show you a piece of paper with a little black dot on it we tend to notice the black dot and not be thankful for the rest of the sheet which has all sorts of opportunity to write and draw on or even the other side which has complete opportunity to do something creatively with.  It’s just the black dot we notice rather than the opportunity of the blank page!

I think we can learn to be grateful and happy.  We can build what I call spiritual practices into our lives to enhance our sense of gratitude.  There is a little technique we learn when we are young about crossing the road.  It is just three words: ‘Stop, Look, Go’.  I  invite to take these words into your life as a spiritual practice that will bring more gratefulness and happiness into your life. 

Stop – Make time in your life to be still – hit pause more often in your day to make space to ponder and be aware of what is happening.  Build some stop signs into your day where you reflect on simple things like turning on the tap and getting a supply of fresh clean water.  Saying grace before a meal is one of those stop signs.  Maybe it’s making time at the beginning or the end of the day to reflect.  Some people write a gratefulness journal.  Someone else I know has a practice in their life of spending a few minutes each night to review their day and name at least three things they are grateful in that day.  But we all need stop time if we are going to build gratefulness and happiness in our lives. . 

Look – ponder, reflect.  Savour the experiences of life in your heart.   Some of us have lived in places where there is little fresh clean water and we know the value of this gift that comes at the turn of a tap.  Or when you switch on the light pause for a moment and reflect on the ingenuity that gives us energy so easily.   Notice the intricacy of the flowers in your garden, the hard working bees pollinating, the trees converting carbon dioxide into oxygen so we can live.  Notice the love that others share with you. When someone asks ‘how you are’, notice the love and concern that is behind the question.  We take so much for granted in our busy lives and we are the poorer for it.  It is not a giant clockwork universe we live in, but wonderfully rich, gracious world where we are constantly on the receiving end of gifts.  Notice this and you will be more grateful and happier.  Notice the buds opening, the birds singing, the fresh scents the sunset and think ‘gift’.    

Go – and as you stop and look and notice, let your life be changed.  Let the gratitude make you a happier person, and more generous person.  Let your life be healed.  Let it be well.  Let it be thank-full and let the thankfulness radiate from you.  Let it bring shalom into the world.  Don’t keep it bottled in but share it, affirm others with it.  Psychologists are now telling us that there is a huge amount of scientific research behind the positive impact of showing gratitude.  It enhances the neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopomines. When we are grateful we change our cognitive processes and we notice more things to be thankful for.  Another quote…God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used at least one to be thankful... to express thanks.  Saying thank you is one of the most powerful things you can do for others, and it’s a great way to give witness to your faith in God the amazing gift giver!

A grateful person will help save the planet because they will share more and consume less.

A grateful person enjoys differences in others and will respect others who are different.

A grateful person is happy with who they are and less likely to be violent and abusive to those around them.

A grateful person will be more joyful .

A grateful person will often be more aware of God and gifts of God.