An Attitude of Gratitude – Pastor Donna Doutt –Psalm 30 – July 7, 2019

Each week that I write a sermon, I have a process. Did you know there are suggested readings for each of us in what’s called the “lectionary?” A definition of lectionary is “a list or book of portions of the Bible appointed to be read at a church service.”

So, first of all I look at the weekly lectionary to see what are the various suggested readings? They will always include an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, an Epistle lesson, and a Gospel lesson. You should find this week’s suggested lectionary readings in your bulletin. Going forward, this is something I will provide each week for you to review at your leisure at home. 

After I see what the various readings are, I actually read them, and then research them through many resources, including scholarly commentaries. Through this process, I try to determine which scripture is “speaking” to me…which scripture “sparks” a message to share with you.

This week’s suggestions were a tough choice, because I could see important value in each of them.

The Gospel scripture is about the 70 that were sent out after the disciples and contains that beautiful verse “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;” (Luke 10:2). We preachers love to challenge our congregations to be laborers for Christ!

The Epistle lesson from Galatians is also great. It contains the inspiring verse, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2), and that often repeated verse, “…you reap what you sow.” (Gal. 6:7). What preacher couldn’t construct a sermon from those scriptures?

Our Old Testament lesson tells the story of a great army warrior called Naaman. But despite his valor, poor Naaman suffered from leprosy. He took a lot of his wealth to the king to try to buy a cure, but the king of Israel couldn’t believe that this soldier thought that HE could cure him, and didn’t want to be bothered with him. But then we hear that Elisha (remember he’s the selected prophet of Elijah to replace him), said “Let him come to me, that he may learn there is a prophet in Israel.”

So Naaman rushes over there in his golden chariot, but Elisha doesn’t come out. He just sends a message out to him to “go wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” Now I don’t know about you, but if I had leprosy, I would try just about anything. But Naaman got all high handed because Elisha didn’t come out and talked directly to him. Our scripture says, “He turned and went away in a rage.” That’s an attitude of ingratitude if you ask me! There’s Elisha trying to help him and he’s just being stubborn and arrogant. But he didn’t ask me or you.

HOWEVER, his lowly servant, a young Christian woman, intervened and our scripture finishes with this, “So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God (that would be Elisha), his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.”

Isn’t it ironic that people with little or no power or wealth, like this servant girl, perceives God’s power and capabilities? This little servant shows him the weakness of his own rationale. The officials of the village, the king of Israel, and this warrior…none of them recognizes where and how God is at work.

Now lastly, we come to what we clergy called “the appointed scripture.” This is the one we’ve chosen to construct our message around. For me, this day, I chose the Psalm, which isn’t often the case.

[1]One of my resources titled The Complete Guide to the Bible refers to the book of Psalms as “Singing the Blues to God.” Maybe that’s if your glass is half-empty. My glass is always half-full. I don’t consider Psalms singing the blues. I consider them songs of praise.

In Bible times, the Psalms were like the Jewish version of a hymnbook. They were originally written on leather scrolls and included 150 songs, prayers and some readings that Jews used in their worship. The musical notes are missing, but the lyrics remain.

We need to appreciate our great United Methodist hymnals! I brought this hymnal back from a Methodist church we visited in England, and just like the original Psalms…there’s no musical notes! Nor are there any hymn titles! Hymns are all listed by categories. You better have a good organist available!

I stand with the Jews who call the book of Psalms the book of Tehilim (Ti´-hi-lim)– meaning Hebrew for “songs of praise.” And we can certainly find many songs praising God in the Psalms. But I admit, you’ll also here a lot of complaining, whining, and imploring.

Nearly half the songs qualify as complaints. Yet even in complaining, most of the poets wrap up their complaints with praise and expressions of trust in God. Doesn’t that sound like a prayer to you? Isn’t that how we pray? We petition, we implore, and we beg.

Then, and unfortunately, only sometimes, do we remember to praise God and give Him the thanks that are due Him.

I want to dissect this Psalm with you:


King David is credited with writing 73 Psalms. Clearly the writer has suffered from our opening verses.

We get down here to verses 4 and 5 and we come to the meat of this Psalm:

4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,

    and give thanks to his holy name.

5 For his anger is but for a moment;

    his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may linger for the night,

    but joy comes with the morning.

Oh, yes, it does! It’s all going to be good as long as we are faithful!

Then verse 6 is indicative of a person who confesses that he was doing well, then suddenly wasn’t. In his security he had grown arrogant, forgetful of who made his “mountain stand firm,” but the Lord reminded him. If you remember the stories of David you might recall where this mourning comes from.

In verses 8-10, we see someone who has shattered strength. His self-reliance is swept away. And at the brink of death his cries for God’s mercy.

Then in verse 11, Tah-Dah! God answered—and David vows to prolong his praise forever. Dancing and joy replace wailing and sackcloth, so that songs of praise, not silence, celebrate the acts of God. The reason for his praise is recovery from an illness.

How many times in prayer of psalms do we ask for recovery and health? [2]Contributing writer to The Christian Century, Rev. P.C. Enniss reminds us that we might have this same feeling as David when we hear the words “cancer free,” or “the fever is gone.” We’ve received a reprieve! In our American way of Christian recognition, we might shout “Thank you Jesus!”

But then, we sometimes don’t connect the dots to God. We neglect to remember that we’ve prayed for this recovery, for this cure, for this relief. So, instead of singing praise, we utter our thanks in more secular ways of thankfulness: We say things like, “I thank my lucky stars,” or “Whew, I beat the odds.”

But the writer of this Psalm is clear in knowing that his deliverance is due to God’s loving grace, so he connects his praise directly to his prayers for deliverance.

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;…12  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. We need to adopt an “attitude of gratitude.” An attitude that gives thanks forever.

I invite you to think back over the last few days, or this week. How did God move in your life this week? Did you have a roof over your head? Did you have food on your table? Do the lights come on when you flip a switch and does the water pour forth when you turn the tap? Do you have people who love you?

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

Our doors are open here at this church. Our lights are on. We have music to lift our souls and words of scripture to guide us. We have cushioned seats, and fans to move this summer air. Let’s not forget to give our gratitude to the One who deserves it!God is good all the time! And all the time, God is good!

Let’s not be like Naaman in our Kings reading, living in our arrogance and forgetting how God can move in our life.

Let us recall our Epistle reading from Galatians to “bear one another’s burdens,” and know that God is at work in the lives of others.

Let us rejoice like the 70 in our Gospel reading when they returned to Jesus shouting for joy at their success, and giving thanks where thanks was due. Their success came only through Jesus Christ, their salvation.

We have so much for which to be thankful. Let us remember longer than just today to offer our praise daily for the good things that God does in our lives. Take time to make time at the beginning and the end of each day to repeat your own psalm of praise to the One who loves you.

Amen.

 

[1] The Complete Guide to the Bible, Stephen M. Miller. Barbour Books, 2007.  P. 154

[2]P. C. Ennis Feasting on the Word, Year C. vol. 3. P. 204

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