“Let it Sing”
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17, NRSV)
“You got to give yourself a reason to rejoice
For the music you make counts for everything
You got to give it room, and let it sing
My mama told me, son, forget what might have been
Give yourself a break, whatever's happening
Don't let your spirit, son, come closin' in –
You got to give it room, and let it, let it sing
There's precious little, really, folks like us control –
But you can make your music from the simplest thing
And you're the one has got to tend your soul;
You got to give it room, and let it, let it sing”
The year is 1964 and a group of strangers journey together by bus to their unique destinations. The musical Violet is based on the short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim" by Doris Betts. This moving production tells the story of Violet Karl, a young disfigured woman who embarks on a journey from her farm in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, to Tulsa, Oklahoma. She makes this long and arduous trek to seek the infamous healing powers of a prominent televangelist. On her pilgrimage, Violet meets Flick; an African American service man who shares his personal wisdom and insight as she searches for healing.
Perhaps we all find ourselves in some fragment of Violet’s story. In our own unique way, we are in search of some kind of healing. We are all seeking wholeness. Violet’s story reminds us to look for the wonderfully ordinary, even amid our strife. Her story reminds us to name the goodness around us and within us, even when it is beyond difficult to see. Ultimately, gratitude is the healing balm that keeps us afloat and perhaps that which might even heal us.
In the wake of so much heartache and hardship, both within in our own faith family, and within our world, it is easy to feel defeated. I had one of those days recently. My soul felt heavy and ridden with anxiety. I needed to get out of buildings and of houses. I needed to get out of myself. Late one afternoon, I left Jacob alone in the misery that is otherwise known as homework time with our children. I then grabbed our dog and his leash and bolted outside as quickly as I could humanly manage. I walked a faster pace than usual - my strides filled with anger and angst. Before I knew it, I was running - full speed, as if to somehow escape the heaviness I felt deep in my bones. After pushing myself to its limit, I was forced to stop and breathe. I could feel my heartbeat pounding in my ears. While bent over with my hands on my knees, I realized that for over half of a mile, I had stared solely at the concrete beneath me. As I regained a steady breath, I experienced a moment that I will not soon forget. It is not lost on me that endorphins were infiltrating my brain. However, this moment was more than a chemical reaction in my body. I felt a presence of peace wash over me. The words, “stop, look and listen” interrupted the chaotic thoughts I had had only moments before. Stop. Look Listen.
I took a moment to truly halt everything. I quieted the thoughts in my mind and took a few moments to just breathe. I looked up from the pavement to notice the outrageous colors in the evening sky. Purple, pink and the most radiant blue I had ever seen. I took notice of a young girl, helping her baby brother learn to perfect his bike riding skills. I heard the loud panting of Max by my side - my faithful fur companion sitting and waiting patiently for our walk to resume. I heard laughter from neighborhood children. As I inhaled deeply, I took notice of the fragrant evening air. The aroma of family dinners in the oven and afternoon fire from nearby chimneys. Within that space and time, even amidst the turmoil I sensed, there was a glimpse of gratitude. That singular moment altered the remainder of my day. It is moments like these that offer new perspective and perhaps may even alter our lives.
In our scripture lesson today, the Apostle Paul calls the church in Collosae to remember the most significant ways of connecting to the Holy. The letter to the Colossians is believed by many scholars to be written by the Apostle Paul during one of his stints in prison. The urgings for this new faith community so imperative that Paul finds a way to encourage them even from behind bars. Paul’s words to the Colossians are as relevant to us today as they were in the formidable years of the early church. The Message translation of Paul’s words explain it best. 12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. 15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. … And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. …And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God every step of the way.
This artistic interpretation of Paul’s letter calls for us to “cultivate thankfulness” as we go about our daily living. How do we do this, when our world seems so foreign of things to be grateful for? How do we begin to see those glimpses of good in our lives? Dr. Diana Butler Bass released her latest book entitled “Grateful, The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.” She describes beautifully our struggle to be grateful at times and the benefits we discover when we stop to take in the gifts around us.
Butler writes, “But if we cultivate our awareness to see …gifts more often, with clearer and more consistent vision, something else happens. Thankfulness becomes… habitual, a regular part of how we respond to the world. Yes, gratitude still holds the power to surprise and to elicit a strong emotional response. However, as a habit, it also becomes a steadying companion, incorporated into the story of our lives. Gratitude is not just a knock-your-socks-off revelation of goodness and beauty; it emerges as a daily--even hourly--disposition of appreciation toward familiar gifts….We can choose to focus on our failures or our losses, on what we feel entitled to or what we deserve. We can choose anger, fear, resentment, grief, hubris, or pain. We can choose to live our lives stuck in our worst moments. We can choose to believe that everyone and everything are against us. We can choose to define ourselves on the basis of someone else's violence, prejudice, or injustice toward us…We can choose every negative philosophy, theology, or ideology that cuts us off from grace, and we can choose to think there is no one and nothing to thank…Ingratitude often results from misunderstanding the nature of thanks, failing to see the larger picture of our lives… But when, if even for a little while, we choose gratefulness, that choice builds on itself and begins to create a spiral of appreciation. The first choice--even if only a vague inclination--sets up the next choice, and the next, and the next one beyond that. To choose gratitude is not an act of dogged determination. To choose gratitude is to hear an inner urging toward thanks, to be aware of the grace in life, and to respond. For whatever reason, we turn and reply to an invitation for a deeper, better life.
Ancient Biblical writers and modern day theologians urge us toward lives of thankfulness for the care and sake of our souls. Twenty first century doctors and researchers urge us toward lives of gratitude for the sake of our health and well-being. According to a recent study published in Psychology Today, gratitude increases the very quality and longevity of our lives.
Researchers note that gratitude opens the door to more relationships. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
Researches note that gratitude improves our physical health. According to scientists, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than others. … [Grateful] people exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to a [longer lifespan]. Researchers note that gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Some research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and [can] reduce depression.
The study shows that gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly… Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge. Grateful people sleep better, according to the study. Gratitude improves self-esteem. Studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. … Grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments. Lastly, the study indicates that gratitude increases mental strength. …Research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. One study …found that gratitude is a major contributor to [our human] resilience.
We are all in search of healing amidst life’s incredible heartache and pain. Gratitude is grace. Gratitude lifts us and makes it easier to breathe, even if only for a moment. It is the healing balm that will save us and perhaps heal the most broken pieces of ourselves. As Flick reminds Violet amidst her pain, “There's precious little, really, folks like us control – But you can make your music from the simplest thing; And you're the one has got to tend your soul; You got to give it room, and let it, let it sing”. As a church family, we are on this life and faith journey together. Like Flick and Violet, each of us, are on our own unique path. Perhaps as we become better at uncovering small graces in our own lives, we just might help others to do the same.
Cultivate thankfulness. Look for glimpses of goodness, even when it’s difficult to see. Tend your soul. And sing. Sing your hearts out to God. Give your heart room and let it sing. May it be so. AMEN.
God of Love,
Whose signature we see, if we dare to look,
in the creation of the universe,
help us this hour to look and to listen
for Your handwriting and Your voice in this place,
among these people.
Breathe life into our singing, our praying,
our speaking, our listening,
that all these activities might become more than they are.
Oh God, we ask that you bless our veterans on this day.
Bless these men and women of courage and valor,
With a deep and abiding understanding
Of our profound gratitude. Protect them and their families from loneliness and want.
May their dedication and honor be remembered as a blessing to our country from generation to generation.
We pray for the condition of our world this morning. There are so many in need of your loving care. We continue to pray for the families of victims involved in the Pittsburgh Synagogue attack. Comfort these O God. We pray that where there is violence and war, we would find a peaceful solution. We pray that where there is hunger and thirst, we would find resources to quench and to satisfy. We pray for those separated from loved ones today. Comfort them that they might sense the kind of peace that only you can give.
We pray for our church family.
We seek to be faithful as we live out our lives. Draw us closer to you. In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.
~ posted on My Redeemer Lives website .http://www.myredeemerlives.com/prayers.html
 The Message; Eugene Peterson. Colossians 3: 12 – 17.
 Bass, Dr. Diana Butler; Day 1 Interview on her book “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks”