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Sunday Message: When awe evokes gratitude

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Twentieth Sunday of Pentecost – October 7, 2018 (Canadian Thanksgiving)

Joel 2:21-27; Psalm 8 and Matthew 6:25-33

Albert Einstein is quoted to have said: “He who can no longer pause to wonder, is as good as dead.” Madeleine L’Engle concurs with Einstein that anyone who does not get carried away in awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe “is as good as a burnt out candle.”

1. Making a case for awe

The poet who wrote the eighth Psalm is in good company, as he must have spent many hours drinking in the beauty of God’s handiwork when he expressed what he said in this Psalm.

It’s a nice contrast to some of the themes in many of the other Psalms. Where some of the Psalms offer cries for help amidst times of trouble and struggle, this one, the eighth psalm reminds us of the immense splendour of the creation we live in. It underscores the majesty of the hand that knit all of creation together. It causes us to stop, pause and reflect on the goodness of God and the beauty that is still all around us.

Think of the lovely fall colours, the bright moon in the sky, or even the northern lights, the aurora borealis, that are God’s way of filling us with awe. Think, for example, of the birds in nature, undoubtedly there must be a greater hand that brought all of this into being.

The poet of this psalm was enthralled about the understanding that beings as insignificant as us would be given the privileged position we have. “I ask, ‘Why do You care about us humans? Why are You concerned for us weaklings?’” and, “You let us rule everything your hands have made.” (verses 4 and 6). That each one of us is loved and valued so much by God.

The focus here is on God. God’s bigness, God’s majesty, God’s grandeur and second to that, the psalmist’s sense of gratitude that God would actually think of us, each one of us! Whenever we pause to look at all God’s great deeds in the universe, the paths of the planets and stars, the amazing moon, the faithful path of the sun, we can’t deny how huge and amazing all of this is. 

2. How then, can we not?

How can we not be moved to thanks? We just can’t NOT want to thank God!

Looking at the awe-inspiring miracles of nature, there is no way for a moment to go by, let alone a day like Thanksgiving day, in which we just can fully be taken over by gratefulness.

What shape does our gratitude take on? I would venture to say that the lack of heartfelt gratitude might be part of what causes a deep loss of happiness and contentment in today’s society. 

3. Ways of giving thanks

Coming from the beautiful continent of Africa, more specifically South Africa, I too, often became jaded to the wonder that unfolded around me. We didn’t do something like Thanksgiving. In the rural town we lived in, our congregation started a first Sunday in October service of thanks for the harvest (this was an anomaly to society in South Africa). We called it our tenth month, alluding to the month we get to give our tithes, ten percent of our income. It was a way to say thanks to God. A very similar take happens all over the world, as our folks from Africa will show next Sunday.

Here in North America I have come to fully appreciate thanksgiving. 

Having emigrated from the Philippines, our friend Sam says that Thanksgiving as we know it in Canada is not celebrated. Yet, Filipinos have this tradition of thanksgiving for almost any milestone. Graduation in all levels of education (from pre-school to university), passing of professional examinations, promotions, business successes, having a new house, or even something seemingly trivial like getting a job. Thanksgiving comes in the form of a meal or party which always starts with a special prayer. Needless to say, “Thanksgiving” can be any day of the year. In some years, there may even be more than one thanksgiving day!

Today, no matter what our circumstances are, may we be people who stop, pause and take a moment to see the beauty and awesomeness of the world we live in and allow it to remind us of the brilliance of the one who crafted it and continues to craft it – the one whose name echoes around the world, giving us a very prominent role within it all.

Let’s allow God to stun us with the beauty of God’s creation, every day and every moment of our lives. And let us thank God every day for God’s goodness.

I conclude with an anonymous adage that certainly resonates with me today: “A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset. When you wake up, take a second to think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive and healthy. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing, I assure you it will start to feel like one. Time spent appreciating is time worth living.” Amen


Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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