The Heart of Hanscom: Grounded in Gratitude – April 21, 2024

As you read the letters of Paul in the New Testament, distinct themes will stand out.  A good chunk of what we call books in the New Testament are actually letters written to early church communities, mostly by the Apostle Paul himself or in his name.  1 2 Corinthians were letters written to the early church in Corinth.  Philippians was to Phillipi, Ephesians to Ephesus, and so on.  Paul in particular, has themes that are touched on or repeated in many of his letters.  The idea of being a new creation in Christ.  Values and actions that come out of a Christ-like or heavenly focus vs actions that come out of a worldly, human, or fleshly focus.  And giving thanks to God.  Every letter includes a Thanksgiving section where Paul gives thanks for both the local church communities and God’s grace and activity within those communities.  We can also recognize an overall grounding in gratitude that Paul has, or a heart of gratitude that is reflected in his letters.   


Philippians:  “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.” 


Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms,hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 


Paul’s life is a gratitude shaped life and Paul’s faith is a gratitude shaped faith.  And Paul lived through deep hardship.  His life was not always sunshine and roses.  He was persecuted, physically harmed, imprisoned more than once, and still his life, his faith, were grounded in and molded by thankfulness.  We don’t have to be thankful for the difficulties we go through to be thankful for how God is on the move in the midst of those difficulties.    


Gratitude does not mask or deny what we go through.  Life is hard, and, in the midst of hardship, giving thanks to God orients us towards a reality and truth greater than our momentary circumstances.  Gratitude is not just having a positive outlook on life.  Thankfulness isn’t naïve, or pie in the sky thinking.  It orients us towards the truth of goodness and joy in the world.  It helps us focus on truth of the image of God within and around us that no sin, suffering, or circumstance can destroy.  Gratitude connects us with the divine spark, tapping into God’s creative energy, and anchoring us in the ultimate source of life.  We give thanks because life is an opportunity and a gift, being here is an opportunity and a gift.   


And I think you recognize that because I see it in you.  I see you as a church leaning into ministry opportunities, leaning into community and one another.  And maybe you might use different words.  You might call it loving your neighbor, dedication, or service.  And our ministries are all of those things, I also call them giving thanks to God by leaning into and embracing the opportunities that come your way.  Last fall when we needed significantly more food for our after school snacking program you donated boxes and boxes of chips and granola bars and fruit snacks and your time and your money.  The All People’s Pantry has grown beyond the capacity of any one church because of Pastor Peter’s leadership and you.     


I think about our Expanding the Heart of Hanscom project.  It is an accessibility remodeling project that you have been hearing about but launches in full this week with the beginning of our Heart of Hanscom sermon series, an informational video that will be published and shown to committees, a more detailed brochure that will be sent out, as well as a prayer initiative.  It is also a project stepped in gratitude and thankfulness.  Our church, our church family, has so impacted you, you have felt such thankfulness for our church that you want everyone of any ability to be able to experience it fully.  It is in thankfulness that this project came about and it is in thankfulness that we name it as God’s project and pray about what it will come to be and how we are called to be a part of it.   


Grounded in gratitude and with a heart shaped by gratitude, we can name the hardships of life and have anchor and peace in the midst of them.   

With a heart shaped by gratitude, we can access God’s dream for our lives, for our church, and work to bring those dreams into reality. 

This week, may gratitude and thankfulness find you and may the peace of Christ dwell within your heart richly. 

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