To listen to this sermon on gratitude, click here.
Hebrew Scripture Reading—Psalm 118: 10-17 and 19-29
I would like to begin this morning with a suspenseful, yet ultimately prayerful visualization exercise. Close your eyes if you like, and imagine yourself with your right arm outstretched as it hangs onto a root jutting out from the edge of a cliff. Your grasp of this root is all that is keeping you from plunging to a terminal fate three thousand feet below. As it happens, you find yourself in this predicament because the person you love the most pushed you over the edge before storming off in a rage. I won’t mention the reason why the love of your life did this. You know the reason. And so, there you are dangling precariously from the root. The sweat on your hand is making it harder and harder for you to maintain your grasp. Ever so slowly, your hand begins to slip downward. Your eyes look upward at your aching hand. For a second, they glance down at the rocky landing far below. Now, at this point, let’s hit the pause button for a moment of reflection.
To listen to this sermon, click here.
New Testament Reading—John 19: 23-27
I want to begin with an exercise for your imagination. First, I invite you to look around at the people in this sanctuary. Try not to stare at anyone in particular. I don’t want people feeling uncomfortable. Casually look around. Think of how well you know some people and how little you might know others. Perhaps, there is someone you have never gotten a chance to really engage or chat with. Next, I want you to imagine that you have just been given the following news: as you were casually looking around, the person who you knew the least or perhaps did not know at all will be moving into your house as soon as worship is over. They will be living in your home, sharing your meals, using the same bathroom that you use day after day. Further imagine that this is how things will be for the rest of your life. From now on, this person is going to live as a member of your family. For all you know, this person could be the nicest person ever and you will be delighted to have them as a family member, but in truth, you don’t really know much about this person. Once you have let this imagined set of circumstances sink in, you can return to the present reality. I hope that I didn’t just ruin coffee hour for people. I don’t want everyone trying to avoid whoever they imagined to be their new family member.
Last week I attended a grief counseling training at The Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was an emotionally demanding week as I and 23 other students practiced our newly acquired skills on each other in mock counseling sessions. When it was all over, I spent a day in Denver with my family before flying home. Along with two other families with children, we visited Denver’s Downtown Aquarium. Of the more than 500 species of animals at the aquarium, what sticks out most vividly in my memory isn’t the shark tank or the tiger prowling next to pools of water. It is a fish tank packed with relatively small, brightly colored fish swimming in a myriad of different directions.