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Best Holiday Recipe (but not for food)

Hello, friends, and welcome back. I’m the Rev. Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz and this is the Sunday Sermon. If you’re looking for the bits of the bible I’ve referenced in this sermon, you can find the link right here. For the nerds in the know, this is Thanksgiving Day, Year C, and here’s the sermon I preached on Thursday, November 24, 2022. 

To listen to the audio-only version of the sermon, click here. For the full-text, read on!

Good morning. Of all of today’s readings, I want to focus in on Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. This is Paul’s version of ‘Letters From A Birmingham Jail’. Except Paul was in jail near Ephesus. And Paul is writing to a church he adores, a church he planted himself, and a church who adores him in return. They’re going through some difficulties… but really, that could be anyone, any community, any church, and at any time. ‘Going through some difficulties.’ That phrase covers a lot of ground.

And the holiday we’re celebrating today was about a group of people who were… going through some difficulties. And because they were saved, this is the holiday of gratitude. Interestingly, ancient and modern Jews also have a religious holiday of gratitude where they have feasts and exchange gifts. That holiday is called Purim, and the reason it came about is described in the book of Esther, in the Old Testament.

In this portion of Paul’s letter, he’s already given them a bunch of advice to help get through their difficult time, but now he’s telling them how to focus themselves mentally and emotionally, and there’s some really fine advice in here friends, on how to focus yourself mentally and emotionally during difficult times.

First, rejoice in God. Now, rejoice isn’t a word we often hear outside of church, or Christmas. So, if we pick apart the word, it means to literally ‘bring yourself back to being happy, and then stay there for a bit’. Now, if you struggle with depression or anxiety, no amount of somebody telling you ‘snap out of it and be happy’ is going to actually work, but this is at least the goal. Remember God and be happy.

Second, let your gentleness be known. So… be so gentle it becomes obvious to others. And this one might be easy for you, or it might be a stretch. For me, I know I have a sometimes abrasive personality, and so the way I try to balance that is by listening and always being willing to be wrong. To hold my opinions gently, even if I state them boldly. To allow my mind to be changed. Your mileage may vary.

Third, don’t worry about anything. Ask for what you need – be clear and honest about it, then stop worrying. Now here again, just like saying ‘be happy’ to someone with depression, telling someone who struggles with anxiety to ‘stop worrying’, is as effective as shouting into the wind. But this is the goal – to not worry. And if anxiety is something you struggle with, there are people who can help. Because God doesn’t want us to be riddled with anxiety, or crippled with worry.

Finally, let your mind dwell on anything around you that is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise. Focus on these things. It really is okay – you aren’t abandoning your responsibilities if you choose to think of something wonderful, rather than all your cause of stress.

So what we have here is this: come back to joy, be as gentle as you can, so far as it is within your capacity to do so: drop the worry, and think about what is going right, all around you. And if you do these four things: joy, gentleness, not worrying, and focus on what is going right… you have just set yourself up to meditate on gratitude, to be grateful. That is the recipe for gratitude. Take one half cup of joy and gently whisk in two tablespoons of gentleness and another two cups of not worrying. Then it’s time for the wet ingredients. Put in a quarter cup of everything that is going right, one after another, stir vigorously, scoop into greased muffin tins and bake for fifteen minutes at 400, serve immediately.

So make sure that gratitude is part of your Thanksgiving Day menu. And once you get the hang of the recipe, just keep serving it every day.

Amen.

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