Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God”. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
Our seven-verse Epistle reading today has a lot of information for such a short selection. So we are going to break down only the one verse I have just read for you. As we take it apart, I ask that you consider how the examples I give apply in your unique situation. We will consider this again before I conclude this morning.
Part 1- Everything is for your sake
Everything. Not just those things that happen after your first cup of coffee. Not just those that happen when your child has had a good nap that day. Not just those things that happen before, what in my family we call the “pumpkin hour,” when you are beyond ready to go to bed. And not just those things that happen when you are sober. Ev-ery-thing. The whole shebang, from when you wake up to when you go do bed. All day (yes, even when you are woken up out of a dead sleep), every day. If we consider that all of our actions, at all of these times, as well as the routine times in your day, should be done for the sake of God, we must consider everything we do. I think about when people are disrespectful to me, how should I respond? I think about when I get annoyed in traffic, how should I respond? For God’s sake, I should respond with grace.
Grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God
Part 2- The glory of God equation
I never thought I would include the word “equation” in a sermon, because, well, mathematics is the reason I gave up on being an aerospace engineer. But here goes. G + P + T = GG
Grace + more people + increased thanksgiving (gratitude) = glory of God
Variable 1- Grace
We hear talk about the grace of God or a person being physically graceful, but what about grace coming from each of us individually and as a community? According to thesaurus.com, the top synonyms for Grace are: compassion, generosity, goodness, kindness, love, and tenderness. That sounds an awful lot like the gifts of the spirit. Offering grace can be a means of acceptance of all people, broken, healing, similar, and different. Grace is something that we can offer to others without it costing us a thing. We might even receive some benefits of it, because after all, showing grace is a positive action, and positive actions can help us to feel and be more positive in our daily lives. According to the Dalai Lama, “too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering. A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness” (The Book of Joy, p 251). And in the same conversation, Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “It takes time. We are growing and learning how to be compassionate, how to be caring, how to be human.”
So what exactly is compassion aka. grace? Thupin Jinpa, official translator for the Dalai Lama and co-creator of The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University School of Medicine says (in his book A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform our Lives), “Compassion is a sense of concern that arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to see that suffering relieved… Compassion is what connects the feeling of empathy to acts of kindness, generosity, and other expressions of altruistic tendencies” (The Book of Joy p 252). When was the last time you were motivated to see someone else’s suffering relieved? Did you act on it? If you didn’t, why not?
Often the harder part of grace and compassion is showing them for ourselves. We often speak to ourselves in ways that we would never speak to a friend or loved one. I know when the tapes of self deprecation get going in my head, they can be really hard to turn off. You aren’t good enough. Why try when it doesn’t matter? You are a loser. When I flip these tapes over, and use self-compassion, it sounds more like this, I’m doing my best right now but it is hard and that’s ok. I’m not a loser, I’m really good at being a friend and helping people. I matter. I am good enough. I am worthy. When you get down on yourself, try giving yourself a dose of grace and self-compassion. What it can do for others, it can do for you too.
Variable 2- More people
More and more people. There are no qualifiers here. So who deserves to receive grace from us? Who should be included in extending it to “more and more people?” There are no exceptions to who deserves grace. Let me say one more time what the synonyms of grace are: compassion, generosity, goodness, kindness, love, and tenderness. That person was just rude to you? Show them kindness anyway. Someone cut you off on the road… show them compassion. That guy on the street corner you pass by every day on the way to work… he deserves your generosity and love. Maybe these things come across as a genuine smile, a handshake, or a kind word. Maybe it is giving out a blessing bag or just a bottle of water on a hot day. So who deserves grace? Everyone. Our kids, our parents, our other family members, the strangers, the neighbors, the immigrants, the politicians, the drug dealers, the criminals, the human race.
As said by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, “Love the neighbor you like and love the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor. Your black neighbor and your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino, your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor. That’s why we’re here.”
Variable 3- Thanksgiving/Gratitude
Thanksgivings are thought about frequently in November, around Thanksgiving day. We ask each other what we are thankful and grateful for, and for the most part, we listen to the answers. But there are 364 days that are not Thanksgiving day. Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly “asked people who had survived tragedy how we can cultivate and show more compassion for people who are suffering, the answer was always the same: Don’t shrink away from the joy of your child because I’ve lost mine. Don’t take what you have for granted — celebrate it. Don’t apologize for what you have. Be grateful for it and share your gratitude with others. Are your parents healthy? Be thrilled. Let them know you much they mean to you. When you honor what you have, you’re honoring what I’ve lost” (p 125). Now we come to the interactive part. Please open you blue Book of Common Prayer to page 836. You will see here a whole six-page section with prayers of thanksgiving. I invite you to page through it and when you are having a rough day and don’t know what to be thankful for, use these prayers, they are there to be of use to you. Let us now pray together the first prayer, A General Thanksgiving.
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
Solution- Glory of God
Now I come back to the question I asked in the beginning this morning. How do these variables of grace, people, and thanksgiving affect you in your life and daily interactions?
It really is quite simple and it does not require any mystical powers.
G + P + T = GG
Grace + more people + increased thanksgiving = glory of God.
You, yes you, can shed light on the glory of God at any time, and in any place.