This is a version of the sermon I preached Sunday, November 19, 2017 at Hatcher Memorial Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.
I also preached a version of this sermon at May Memorial in Powhatan, Virginia in the spring. Here is the audio of that sermon.
In his book Meal with Jesus, Tim Chester says, “The world is more delicious than it needs to be. We have a super abundance of divine goodness and generosity. God went over the top. We don’t need the variety we enjoy, but he gave it to us out of sheer exuberant joy and grace. God’s creative joy wasn’t only for the beginning of creation, leaving us ‘eating leftovers.’ God continues to sustain creation out of joy.”
I love that, “the world is more delicious than it needs to be…” Chester is talking about food but our world as a whole really is more delicious than it needs to be.
Fall, the season we find ourselves enjoying, does not need to be so beautiful, so delicious. A web-site called earthsky.org says that, “Shedding leaves helps trees to conserve water and energy. As unfavorable weather approaches, hormones in the trees trigger the process of abscission whereby the leaves are actively cut-off of the tree by specialized cells. At the start of the abscission process, trees reabsorb valuable nutrients from their leaves and store them for later use in their roots. Chlorophyll, the pigment that gives leaves their green color, is one of the first molecules to be broken down for its nutrients. This is one of the reasons why trees turn red, orange, and gold colors during the fall. At the end of the abscission process, when the leaves have been shed, a protective layer of cells grows over the exposed area on the branch.” And even if you are not like the me, a former science teacher, and find that it incredibly fascinating from a biology stand point, you know that when we see the bright colors that surround us in the fall, the world is more delicious than it needs to be.
After a strong storm, when the sun shines just right, the sky fills with a rainbow. This incredible archway that colors the sky. A rainbow is caused when the sun shines on water droplets in the sky and reflection, refraction and dispersion of light. How in the world do we live in a world where water creates color in the sky. How crazy is it that this is the nature of light waves. Even when light hits glass or the right kind of plastic and a prism is created, it takes all of the waves that make up light and it spreads them out to create bands of color that dazzle inside your car, your home or where ever. The world is more delicious than it needs to be.
When temperatures are low enough and there is moisture in the atmosphere tiny ice crystals are formed. Which is miraculous enough, but then these tiny ice crystals collide and they stick together in clouds to become snowflakes. If enough ice crystals stick together, they’ll become heavy enough to fall to the ground. And the crazy thing is that each collision creates a snowflake that is completely unique. Each snowflake that blankets the ground is different. The thousands up thousands, millions of millions of snowflakes that blanket the earth in a snowfall are each different and unique. The world becomes kind of quiet and bright when it snows. The world is more delicious than it needs to be.
We meet someone and for a variety of reasons we are attracted to them, we are drawn to them. In fact, your brain will release lots of a hormone called dopamine. The internet says, “This is a feel good chemical that is released during pleasurable activities, including texting, talking and kissing your loved one. … Meaning that when you fall in love you are actually addicted to the person of your desire. People usually laugh because they’re happy, but laughter also has the power to make us happy. Laughter releases endorphins, or neurotransmitters that have similar effects as drugs like morphine, which are responsible for feelings of euphoria. We have all of these hormones, chemicals running around inside our bodies because we enjoy being around each other. We were created to need relationships but even at a cellular level, we were literally designed to benefit and feel good from being around other people. The world is more delicious than it needs to be.
One day, probably about ten years ago, when my niece was just a toddler, I went in her room to get her from naptime. I can still remember the light coming in through the curtains creating a golden glow. I remember her little face, her chubby plump cheeks and lips and her sweet, innocent expression as she was waking up, and reached up her arms for me to take her from her bed. Even then I teared up because I knew this was a beautiful moment, one of those moments that remind us just how delicious the world is. It is more delicious than it needs to be.
We know the world is more delicious than it needs to be when we play with a puppy, feel the beat and rhythm of our favorite music pulsing through us causing us to move or bringing on a tear, when we eat an amazing dessert that just makes our whole body seem to relax, when we have the high of really good exercise and pushing our physical bodies to our limits. Think about the taste of fresh watermelon, ripe strawberries off the vine, a good ripe tomato. Or what about a really good cup of coffee or cup of tea, or an ice cream sundae. I mean, come on, hot fudge. And we live in a world that at any moment you can look up on your computer and find pictures of babies laughing or cats doing weird things. Just yesterday I watched a video of two babies I do not know looking at one another and laughing their baby laughs at each other. I looked at pictures of huge cats trying to fit their bodies into small containers, their bodies squishing out the sides. The world is more delicious than it needs to be.
Even in the toxic world it feels like we live in today, we have much to be grateful for. We have much to be thankful for.
“Thank you” is an essential, everyday part of family dinners, trips to the store, business deals, etc. Saying thank you is one of the first things we teach children to do when interacting with other. Saying thank you is almost such a part of what we say that we almost don’t realize we are even saying it.
University of California at Berkeley has a “greater good science center” that studies, among other things, gratitude. A few years ago they accepted applications for money for research projects that expand the science and practice of gratitude. They received almost 300 applications. One of the projects that won research money was, “The Impact of Gratitude on Biology and Behaviors with Heart Disease.” Their website has articles and videos you can watch about how to be a more grateful person in life. You can take a gratitude quiz. You answer the questions with the responses about how often you are grateful for these things. Are you grateful never, once a year, a few times a year, once a month, a few times a month, once a week or more than once a week.
How often do you really allow yourself to stop and be grateful? The discipline of gratitude is forcing ourselves to pay attention to the good things in life until we don’t have to force ourselves anymore. It is where we live.
Gratitude begins with recognizing that there are good gifts we are given in this world. True gratitude is realizing that we did nothing to make these good things happen, there is something beyond us, bigger than us. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did in which we might take pride. We acknowledge that all good things come from God.
The world God gives us is truly more delicious than it needs to be and it only gets more delicious when we live in a place of gratitude, not just visit it occasionally. We must develop the habit and discipline of being grateful for what we have, what we experience and what we have to offer the world.
We cannot ignore the world we live in. The classic movie, Pollyanna has the main character, Pollyanna, played by Hayley Mills who is an orphan girl of missionaries whose father taught her to play the glad game. In this game, they would take something negative that happened and counter it with something to be glad about. She tells of a story where one year they were sent crutches for their Christmas gifts when all she really wanted was a doll. When they played the glad game, they decided that they could be glad they didn’t need the crutches.
While it is a nice concept, I think sometimes we’ve been so eager to play the glad game, we miss out on the painful parts of the world. We don’t grieve when we really need to grieve. We don’t get angry when we need to get angry. We don’t fight when we need to fight. So, if you need it, I give you permission for all of that. Getting angry shows us there are things worth fighting for. Grieving shows us that we had something really wonderful. If we can’t let in these emotions, we can’t really experience the deliciousness of the rest of life. I would argue even those moments are part of what makes the world delicious. I would argue that deliciousness, deep deliciousness, involves both pain and pleasure.
This week, as we focus on what we are thankful for, I add the challenge to be a person who lives in a state of gratitude. Find yourself practicing thankfulness and gratitude more than once a week, maybe even daily.
- Pause before each meal to really be grateful for what is on your plate, the people that surround you, the activities that have filled your day.
- Begin a journal where you write down a list of the things you are grateful for before going to sleep at night or first thing in the morning.
- When you begin to feel you are getting to the end of your rope, frustration is overwhelming you, take a moment to think about the deliciousness that surrounds you. Right there in the middle of traffic, an argument, a difficult assignment for school or work, just pretend that you are putting on not the proverbial rose colored glasses, but delicious glasses. These glasses have special lenses that filter life so you just see the delicious things.
Most important, stop and savor how delicious our world really is.