May we begin with Gratitude. And may we end with Gratitude.

In all things: May we begin with Gratitude and may we end with Gratitude, because Gratitude is the most honest approach to our lives.

When we look at everything as it truly is, if we see ourselves as we truly are, see everyone we’re with, see the world and everything in it as it truly is, and see the truth of God through it all, what can we do but fall on our knees and say “Thank you. Thank you.”

Every breath is a gift (which we may not realize until the air is choked with soot). It’s a gift, each breath, which has nothing to do with deserving or not deserving. Did we earn our lungs? Did we do anything to deserve clean air in a way that someone else doesn’t?

Every breath is a gift. And every moment there is solid earth supporting us, is a gift (which we may not realize until the earth quakes). Do we deserve that and other people not? Did we earn the structure of our bones? Did we do anything to deserve the hard rock of the earth’s crust?

It is a gift that we exist at all. Life itself is a gift. A miracle, cast left and right over the whole world.

We cannot measure how much we have received, how much we are receiving moment by moment.

Yes, there is the need for hard work. It’s not all free. Yes, there is struggle. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is unfairness to overcome or to accept or to succumb to.

And yes, bitterness can be a badge of the most hard-bitten lives. Bitterness can also be an indulgence of the most privileged.

But the greatest gratitude we find is often among folks who have the least.

The folks who begin and end each day with “Thank you. My God, thank you” are often folks who have to work the hardest to get what they need, and who also know how much a windfall or a famine can be up to a roll of the dice.

Now, that’s often the wisdom of those who have the least – but it certainly is wisdom we also can find among those who enjoy plenty.

The heart of gratitude is about feeling and knowing the true value of what passes through our hands, what passes through our lives, what passes from one person to the next in acts of generosity and fairness.

The heart of gratitude is about knowing one’s own true value, which leads to both humility and dignity.

This is heart of faith: The Heart of Gratitude. Our lives and everything that upholds them are gifts from our Creator, to Whom we all ultimately will return.

In particular, this Heart of Gratitude is the heart of the Christian faith …

Well, it should be.

It’s not always. We can be honest about that.

Christianity can lose its heart of gratitude. Christian folk can use our religion to get all caught up in entitlement and resentment and superiority – we’re the best and deserve the best and we don’t want other people to have good things from God unless we give it to them.

If any of us have a touch of that Christian chauvinism, it happens, it’s in the water. God still loves us. But we should know it just leads to suffering. It twists the Way of Jesus to serve ourselves rather than to serve God and the universal reality of God’s Love.

It’s just another thing to repent of – any superiority or entitlement we may feel about our religion – just something to let go of, so we can open our hands again and receive God’s Grace.

Open our hands again to receive God’s Grace – this is the heart of the Way of Jesus.

This is the teaching of our Christian faith:

Grace is a gift
offered
to everyone
regardless.

Just a taste of this gift, just a taste of the Love radiating from God to each of us, through each of us, for all of Creation – get just a taste of this gift and all we can do is just fall on our knees. “Thank you. Thank you.”

We don’t earn it. We don’t do something to deserve it. It just doesn’t have to do with earning or deserving. It’s more about receiving or denying – being embraced and embracing back or pushing God away. Hell is of our own making – it’s the condition we make for ourselves and often for other people when we choose to be alienated from God. Eternal life is the condition of accepting reunion with God.

This is what the Apostle Paul was teaching about when he talks about the reconciliation with God that came through Christ. The cross is a dramatic display of God’s unconditional love.

As Christians we should know that you also find it this the revelations through the Hebrew prophets before Jesus.

God’s grace, God’s love and commitment as supreme, eternal, universal – this is quite alive in the living tradition of Judaism.

This month here we’ve been exploring the relationship between Christianity and Judaism.

We’ve been looking at some of the weeds of resentment and superiority and hatred against Judaism that have been sewn in with our Christianity along with the good grains of grace. There are just a lot of unfair misconceptions that Christians tend to have about Judaism.

Like I said last week, I think the only honest attitude Christians should have for Judaism is gratitude.

Jesus was Jewish, he was deeply faithful to the religion of his ancestors; and the early movement of the folks who followed Jesus as God’s Anointed One, was a Jewish movement, deeply faithful to the religion of their ancestors.

So those of us who have had had our lives changed because of Jesus, those of us who have had a life-giving, life-saving, soul-saving relationship with God because of Jesus,

those of us who have had had their relationship with God fed by the words and stories of the New and Old Testaments –

we should only have gratitude for the rich and living tradition of Judaism.

Our shared family traditions, are traditions of gratitude for God. From the gratitude of Moses on the Holy Mountain, beholding the Mystery of God and receiving a revelation of how to live in a way that is holy and just,

To the gratitude of the Hebrew people for the countless times God made good on God’s covenant and delivered them from persecution,

to the Gratitude of Jesus’ disciples in the Empty Tomb, beholding the Mystery of God and receiving a revelation of God’s power over human sin.

In the Jewish and Christian traditions, the Love and Power and Justice and Grace of our Creator has been known and shared among generations of people.

Generations of imperfect people, like ourselves.

Human religion can always twist the true spirit that came through its prophets.

An attitude of gratitude to God can harden into entitlement and resentment.

One of the things that Jesus’ apostles were doing was to open that hardened heart. They said “Through Jesus our hearts have been opened to the living God. Jesus showed us the way back to the heart of our Jewish faith. We’ve gotten caught up in the letter of the Law of Moses as a way to wield power, and we’ve lost the purpose and spirit of the Law. That Spirit compels us to love and serve, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God, and share the good news with all people.”

That kind of regeneration of the spirit of our faith is always needed.

This is heart of faith is the Heart of Gratitude. Our lives and everything that upholds them are gifts from our Creator, to Whom we all ultimately will return.

So, let’s take care to always begin and end with gratitude.

Thank you for your wisdom and generosity.

And as always, thanks be to God.