Adding Thanks for Lent

The first Sunday of Lent brought something quite different than expected. Instead of giving something up, we gave something away. In the middle of my sermon the ushers distributed small journals to our worshipers for them to use to record the things for which they are thankful. These gratitude journals are just one part of our congregational effort to build our sense of gratitude in the church and in our entire community. We are beginning by raising awareness of all the blessings we have in our own lives.

The Deacons of the church have chosen gratitude as the theme for Lent this year. The tradition for Lent is to give up something, so some people have been questioning why we are adding something. The quick answer is that to add gratitude means to give up entitlement, so it actually keeps with tradition. The more complete answer explores the purpose of Lenten denial.

To give up something is to take on a small fast. Fasting is a discipline that is common for most of the world’s religions. When we fast we impose a discipline upon ourselves which causes us to think more deeply about our spiritual life, it enhances self-discipline in other areas of our lives, and it gives us a small dose of the feeling of hunger that so many others go through every day. The overall purpose is to cause a shift in our lives so that we may be more spiritually aware and generous in all times of our life.

Gratitude is a spiritual practice that can be very effective in changing our outlook on the world. Current research confirms the wisdom of the ages—to count one’s blessings leads to a happier and healthier life. We need to remember that gratitude causes happiness more effectively than happiness leads us to be grateful. Unfortunately, too few of us take time each day to express appreciation for the all the blessings God has bestowed upon our lives. To enhance our gratitude is very appropriate to Lent as it will deepen our spiritual life in preparation for Easter.

During Lent I will be preaching on various aspects of being grateful. We will also introduce different practices to help us enhance the expression of gratitude in our lives. The first practice is keeping a gratitude journal. If you weren’t in church last week be sure to stop by to pick-up one of our Congregational Church of Huntington journals. Your assignment is to write down five things that you are grateful for, each day. In order to provide variety you might choose a theme for different days—five foods, five trees, five animals, five friends, five winter Olympic events, or five of anything for which you are grateful. I encourage you to bring your journal to church with you so that we may share some of our gratitude lists with each other.

On the top of my gratitude list is the members of The Congregational Church of Huntington. I know that I do not tell you enough how much I love this church and everyone in it. Thanks for being part of this wonderful expression of God’s world. I hope you enjoy the Lenten gratitude practices.

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