Sunday July 24, 2022
Praying the Psalms -Prayers of Gratitude
Life and Work of our Church
We are one as we come, as we come, joyful to be here,
In the praise on our lips there’s a sense that God is near.
We are one as we sing, as we seek we are found;
And we come needful of God’s grace as we meet together in this place.
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and or those who have cared for it long before our ancestors arrived. We commit ourselves to live with respect upon it, seeking justice and equality for all.
Lighting the Christ Candle
We light this candle as a sign of God’s Light and God’s Spirit at work in the world. May its light brighten our spirits, ignite our passions and shine within and through each one of us to offer light and love to others.
Call to Worship
In deep gratitude for all that we have,
We gather in worship.
Recognizing the Divine Source of all that is,
We gather in worship.
Aware that what we have is Divine gift and blessing,
We gather in worship.
In song, in word, in prayer and in quiet contemplation
We gather in worship.
And so, as we gather in worship, we come with deep gratitude into the very presence of the Divine.
Let us worship God.
Opening Prayer (in unison) ~ written by John Birch
Unclutter our lives, Lord for we have too much, consume too much, expect too much. Grant us perspective; to see this world through others’ eyes not just our own. Grant us compassion; where there is need to play our part, to not turn aside. Grant us gratitude for what we have, our daily bread, the gift of life. Unclutter our lives, Lord, give us space, simplicity and thankful hearts. Amen
Gift of Music Sing Prises to God #228
Today we continue to explore the idea of the book of Psalms also being a book of prayers. We have explored prayers of Adoration, prayers of Longing and prayers of Trust. Today we will look at the Psalms as Prayers of Gratitude.
Sing praise to the Lord, all his faithful people! Remember what the Holy One has done, and give him thanks! His anger lasts only a moment, his goodness for a lifetime. Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning. I felt secure and said to myself, “I will never be defeated.” You were good to me, Lord; you protected me like a mountain fortress. But then you hid yourself from me, and I was afraid. I called to you, Lord; I begged for your help: “What will you gain from my death? What profit from my going to the grave? Are dead people able to praise you? Can they proclaim your unfailing goodness? Hear me, Lord, and be merciful! Help me, Lord!” You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. Lord, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.
Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal. Give thanks to the greatest of all gods; his love is eternal. Give thanks to the mightiest of all lords; his love is eternal. He alone performs great miracles; his love is eternal. By his wisdom he made the heavens; his love is eternal; he built the earth on the deep waters; his love is eternal. He made the sun and the moon; his love is eternal; the sun to rule over the day; his love is eternal; the moon and the stars to rule over the night; his love is eternal. He did not forget us when we were defeated; his love is eternal; he freed us from our enemies; his love is eternal. He gives food to every living creature; his love is eternal. Give thanks to the God of heaven; his love is eternal.
Psalm 34:1-9, 17-18
I will always thank the Lord; I will never stop praising him. I will praise him for what he has done; may all who are oppressed listen and be glad! Proclaim with me the Lord’s greatness; let us praise his name together! I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me; he freed me from all my fears. The oppressed look to him and are glad; they will never be disappointed. The helpless call to him, and he answers; he saves them from all their troubles. His angel guards those who honor the Lord and rescues them from danger. Find out for yourself how good the Lord is. Happy are those who find safety with him. Honor the Lord, all his people; those who obey him have all they need. The righteous call to the Lord, and he listens; he rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.
Psalm 95: 1-7
Come, let us praise the Lord! Let us sing for joy to God, who protects us! Let us come before him with thanksgiving and sing joyful songs of praise. For the Lord is a mighty God, a mighty king over all the gods. He rules over the whole earth, from the deepest caves to the highest hills. He rules over the sea, which he made; the land also, which he himself formed. Come, let us bow down and worship him; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! He is our God; we are the people he cares for, the flock for which he provides.
Praying the Psalms – Prayers of Gratitude
My stepfather was one of the most giving men I have ever known. If he had something he thought that I needed it, he would give it to me. If I needed a ride somewhere, he would drop everything to make sure I got where I was going on time. And if I was short of cash, he would gladly offer me a loan, and when I tried to pay him back, he would invariably say, “That’s OK. Don’t worry about it.” But George was never very good at receiving a gift. If I tried to give him something he would say, “You need that more than I do. You keep it.”
I vividly remember one year I bought him a small bedside alarm clock. It was not something expensive, but my mother had told me he didn’t have one. He unwrapped the present and for a long time said absolutely nothing. Then he looked up at me and simply said, “Thank-you.”
There were tears in his eyes and I can assure you there were also tears in mine. That day George gave me one of the greatest gifts he could every have offered. I knew that that Thank-you was not just for the alarm clock. By simply accepting the gift I had given him with gratitude, he let me know how much I meant to him.
Many people find it much harder to receive than to give. But when we are unable to graciously and gratefully receive the gifts that are given to us, we cheat not only ourselves out of truly appreciating what is given, we also cheat the other person out of the joy of knowing how much their generosity has meant to us.
When we are able to receive a gift from someone else with true gratitude, it not only brings joy to both them and us, but it also helps to build relationship. The same thing is true of our relationship with the Divine. Expressing our gratitude must be more than simply saying Thank-you and being done with it. It is when we experience and express the deep gratitude that touches our hearts and perhaps even brings a tear to our eyes, that we build relationship.
The writer of Psalm 31 puts it this way. You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. This is so much more than a simple thank-you. It is an expression of true deep gratitude.
And sometimes that true deep gratitude hits us when we are least expecting it. One of my favorite stories of deep gratitude comes for the writings of Corrie Ten Boom. During the Holocaust the Ten Boom family offered sanctuary to both Jews and members of the resistance movement. Because of this, the whole family was arrested and sent to prison. Corrie and her sister Betsie were eventually sent to a Ravensbruck Concentration Camp where Betsie died.
Corrie tells the story of how she and Betsie were able to hold nightly Bible study groups in their barracks because the guards refused to enter the building. Although they did not understand why, they were grateful. Eventually they learned that reason was that the straw on which the prisoners were force to sleep was riddled with fleas and the guards were afraid that if they entered the building, they would become infested with fleas and take them home to their families. Corrie Ten Boom says, “When I realize what was happening my most ardent prayer was, ‘Thank-you God for fleas!’”
Sometime true gratitude means recognizing something that may not appear to be a blessing, as a Divine gift. Who would ever have believed that fleas could be a blessing, and yet because of those fleas, Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom were able to bring comfort, support and hope to other women who, like them, were imprisoned in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. In perhaps the most unforgiving and hopeless time imaginable, Divine grace was made possible by fleas!
Being able to express gratitude in difficult times and being able to recognize as blessing those things that we might dislike or even resent, is something much different from saying Thank-you as you count the many good things in our lives. In Psalm 34 the Psalmist says; The oppressed look to him and are glad; they will never be disappointed. The helpless call to him, and he answers … The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.
What the psalms are reminding us is that there is never a situation that is so overwhelming or so hopeless that there is not something within it to be grateful for. It may be something we have to search for. It may be something that appears to be very small and insignificant. It may be something that at first glace seems to be anything but a blessing. But when we are open to recognize the possibility, there is always something to be grateful for.
But just as saying thank-you for the good things in our lives is not enough, simply recognizing the blessing that most people would overlook, is also not enough. Once we recognize these blessing, we need to be grateful for them and we need to express that gratitude.
I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. Lord, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever. I will always thank the Lord; I will never stop praising him. Let us sing for joy to God, who protects us! Let us come before him with thanksgiving and sing joyful songs of praise.
It is when we express our gratitude in words of thanks and praise that we begin to build our relationship with the Divine. Saying thank-you and truly meaning it, opens our heart, and it is only when our hearts are truly open to the Divine that we can begin to connect in a deeper, more meaningful way to the Source of all that is.
And when we do this our gratitude spills over into trust, adoration and longing for God. If adoration is the foundation and longing for God is the motive then when we express our gratitude it builds that relationship of trust that we talked about last week. It builds our faith.
When we recognize that, even in the most difficult times of our lives we still have things to be grateful for, we also begin to trust that there is nothing that can happen to us that is beyond the reach of the Divine. We begin to realize that when we fully and deeply trust in the Divine, even in the worst times of our lives, there will always be things that help us get through those times, there will always be Divine blessings, even if we do not recognize them at the time.
It is not always easy to find things to be grateful for when we are in the midst of difficult and trying times. It is not always easy to trust and believe. But there is one thing that we can hold on to that makes all the difference.
Give thanks to … God … his love is eternal. He alone performs great miracles; his love is eternal. By his wisdom he made the heavens; his love is eternal; he built the earth on the deep waters; his love is eternal. He made the sun and the moon; his love is eternal… He did not forget us when we were defeated; his love is eternal… He gives food to every living creature; his love is eternal. Give thanks to the God of heaven; his love is eternal.
When we can accept that the Divine Mystery that we call God truly does love us at all times and in all circumstances, then how can we not be grateful?
The problem is that during those times of deepest struggle, during those times of deepest despair, during those times of deepest doubt and insecurity, most of us do not feel very loved or very worthy of love. And yet the psalmist promises us God’s love is eternal.
It does not depend on what is happening around us. It does not depend on what anyone else might say or do. It does not even depend on what we may be saying or doing. God’s love is eternal. It is there for us not matter what. If we can remember this, if we can hold on to this even in the worst possible time of our lives, we will truly have something to be grateful for.
And when we can recognize that there is always something in our lives to be grateful for we can say with the psalmist, I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. Lord, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.
True, deep gratitude that comes from the heart; true, deep gratitude that is expressed with thanksgiving and praise does more than simply make it possible to get through the worst, most difficult times of our lives. It allows us to move beyone sorrow and worry, beyond self doubt and self centeredness. It allows us to move to a place of deep joy that cannot be define or constrained by circumstances.
Let us sing for joy to God, who protects us! Let us come before him with thanksgiving and sing joyful songs of praise.
True deep gratitude can take us to a place of such overwhelming joy and love that even fleas can become something to be grateful for!
Gift of Music Let All Things Now Living #242
We Offer Our Gifts
In gratitude for all that we have received, we respond by offering our gifts. In this church we do not pass the offering plates but ask you, if you chose to support the work of this church to place your offering in the offering plates at the back of the church or to make arrangement to give through PAR or through online donations. And so as we sing our offertory response, we bring forward those gifts.
Offertory Response #538
For the gift of creation, the gift of your love and the gift of the Spirit
by which we live, we thank you and give you the fruit of our hands
May your grace be proclaimed by the gifts that we give.
For all the ways you love us, we thank you. For the ways you provide for us, we thank you. For the opportunity to give, we thank you. May our thanks be expressed not just with our words but with our actions and may the gifts we present here today be both blessed and blessing. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
As we acknowledge the blessings in our own lives, let us offer our own silent prayers for all those who are named in our prayer jar, all those who are on our hearts and minds this day, and all those need our prayers … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Source of all that is, we come before you in prayer, speaking aloud the gratitude that is in our hearts. Acknowledging how much we have to be grateful for even in the worst times of our lives, we offer you our thanks and our praise.
For all the people in our lives who love us and support us in those times we most need to be loves and cared for, we offer our thanks …
For all the blessings that are ours simply because of where we were born and the advantages that we have living in this country, we offer our thanks …
For the blessing of being part of a community of faith where we are supported and reaffirmed in our own faith, we offer our thanks …
But even as we acknowledge how fortunate we are, we remember that the same is not true for all people. We know that hatred, war, violence, injustice, inequality, discrimination and bigotry hold sway over much of our world. You call us to not only acknowledge this, but to do our part to bring your love and healing to those most in need.
And so, in gratitude for those who have spent their lives and energy taking care of the poor, the sick and the dying, help us to live out our gratitude in our actions …
In gratitude for all those who speak up for justice and equality, help us to live out our gratitude in our actions …
In gratitude for the peacemakers in our world, help us to live out our gratitude in our actions …
In gratitude for those who have suffered or been imprisoned because of the work they do for you and for the benefit and justice of all your creation, help us to live out our gratitude in our actions …
As we strive to express our gratitude in both our words and actions, we ask that your loving and guiding presence will be with us, now and always. Amen.
Gift of Music Now Thank We All Our God #236
As we go out from here now, we go confident that we are loved, we are guided and we are indeed blessed. So, as we go let us always gratefully remember that we are not alone; for God’s love surrounds us, Christ’s example leads us and the Spirt surrounds and accompanies us, each step of the way. We go with God.
Go now in peace, never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of every day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.
Know God will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there watching from above.
Go now in peace, in faith and in love.
Amen, amen, amen.