November 23, 2014: Thank God, No Matter What Happens

Posted on : Nov 20th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This Sunday, the Sunday before our American celebration of Thanksgiving, we will join in giving thanks to God for the many blessings we have received. I invite you to bring some symbol representing something you are thankful for at this time in your life. For example, if you are thankful for music, you could bring a piece of music or a musical note. If you are thankful to a loved one you could bring a picture. If you are thankful for your job, you could bring a business card or your company logo. Be creative! We’re going to take time to share some of the things we are thankful for at this time in our lives. We’re going to put the symbols of the things we are thankful for up on the Communion Table. (You can take them home after worship.)

We also ask you to bring your financial pledge or giving sheet that was mailed to you this week. As an expression of our thanks to God for the ministry and mission of our church, we will place them on the Communion Table with all the other things we are thankful for.

Earlier this week I had an enlightening conversation with one of the Chaplain Interns at UCLA medical center who is a Buddhist monk. I had just finished teaching a 90 minute training with the chaplain interns at the Westwood UCLA campus on spiritual care with LGBT persons and their families. Initially our conversation focused on how Buddhism as a religion embraces LGBT persons but soon the conversation went far beyond that. It was refreshing to discover that Buddhism is not a religion plagued with spiritual homophobia. That’s not to say that many Buddhists aren’t homophobic; they are. But the religion itself does not teach hate or define GLBT persons as sinful, as Christianity has historically done.

One of the reasons for this difference is that in Buddhism, one of the spiritual principles is that all beings, life-forms, and the earth itself (in other words, “Everything”) is connected. One of the practices of Buddhism is to elevate one’s consciousness to the awareness that everything that exists is connected and inter-connected.

Another principle of Buddhism is the connectedness of our thinking and our feeling. My Buddhist Monk friend, Dung – who is Vietnamese and whose name is pronounced like the English word “young” but without the “g” [yun] – and I spent a lot of time talking about religion that separates “head and heart.” Religion coming only from “the head” tends to be very intellectual and academic. But compassion and love come from “the heart” – the place of feeling and emotion. When religion comes only from “the head” it very easily becomes dogmatic, rigid and legalistic. Likewise, when religion comes only from “the heart” it can end up making “no sense” at all. However, when “heart and mind” come together, religion becomes deeply meaningful and compassionate.

As we were talking, I began to realize that “giving” and “thanksgiving” fall into that same pattern. We can give because intellectually we know its good and right to give or we can give from the heart because we feel compassion or an emotional connection.   An important part of our journey of faith is to connect our head and our heart – our thinking and our feeling so that we are able to both experience gratitude (thankfulness) and express that feeling in our giving to others. The Apostle Paul taught this to the Christian Community at Thessalonica.   Paul taught, “No matter what happens (in your life) give thanks to God.”

This Sunday we will celebrate that wonderful Christian and Buddhist teaching!

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 

(“Traditional” language)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and will do this.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 

(Contemporary language from The Message)

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from Christ. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

May God, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If God said it, God will do it!

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