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Gratitude

There was a recent thread on a FB colleague group about sharing sermons. The consensus among this particular group was that SERMONS SHOULD NEVER BE SHARED, which….surprised me.

I’ve known clergy who didn’t make public their manuscripts because they either didn’t have them (which is a feat I cannot pull off) or because they strongly believed that a sermon is a unique oral event that paired the Spirit’s inspiration with what the hearer takes in, and thus cannot, nor should not be replicated.

I’ve also heard about the concern over plagarism, and also had my own sermons stolen a time or two***. But not sharing the sermon text at all? That seems….like a definite choice.

There’s the accessibility thing, for one. A fair number of the folks listening to me over the years have been hard of hearing. And wireless microphones detest high pitched voices. So making a full text available is a good option for when people cannot hear you the first time.****. Or when they’re distracted by small kids. Or when they can’t make it that Sunday. Or for whatever reason.

Also? It’s a good idea for when people aren’t sure about what they will get at your church, and they want to do some scouting. It’s 2019, and lots of scary stuff gets passed off in the name of Christianity these days. Going blind into a church service is a terrifying thing to do. Give people the reassurance of having an idea of what they will hear from the pulpit.

Every time I walk up into the pulpit, I pause for a moment, and look out at the people sitting in the pews. I always say a silent prayer of thanks for the people God has brought to church this morning, and gratitude for having the honor of speaking to them about such holy and important things.

To preach is a privilege. We get to talk about the most important things in the world. That shouldn’t be kept quiet, but shared abundantly. At least I think so.

***Please don’t. Come on, y’all are smart people who can write your own sermons. I believe in you! And if you are using something I write here, then it’s not hard to cite me. And great shall be your reward in heaven, etc.
****Until such time as we destroy the patriarchal hold on the A/V Industry, which WE WILL.

Anyway, somewhat related, here’s what I said on Sunday.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

October 13, 2019

Ordinary Time, Proper 23

  • Gratitude can be a tricky thing.
  • When I worked at the day school—elite, private school for the privileged young children of Kansas City, there was a big cultural emphasis on gratitude. It was understood that we had to teach gratitude, so that the kids would grow up to be good, ethical people.  So we sang a lot of songs about being thankful, and being grateful.
  • But I don’t know that this was enough?  For myself, when I was a chlid, and I was of a rebellious nature—when a parent would instruct me to “be grateful”…often I would just dig in harder. How?  What did that look like?  Can an emotional state be conjured that way?
  • In today’s gospel, we often read it as being about gratitude:  there are ten lepers, and Jesus heals them.  Then, only one returns to offer thanks—a Samaritan.
  • Now—there is a lot we don’t know here.  First—Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priests, and …they do.  The Samaritan, on the flip side, doesn’t have easy access to his religious hierarchy.  In a sense, when he comes to JESUS to give thanks, what he’s doing is implicitly recognizing Jesus as his religious authority.  
  • Also, gratitude is a demonstrated activity, but it is also an emotional state. While Jesus faults people for actions all the time, he usually doesn’t fault people for strictly internal emotional states. 
  •   So perhaps the better question for us here is not why don’t the others feel appropriately grateful—but in what ways can we cultivate gratitude?
  • Gratitude—to be clear—is a wonderful thing.  It keeps us humble, it makes us cognizant of what we have, and how we might share.  It is a wonderful way to live.
  • And yet, it is not really an emotional state that can be magicked up through command.  Like love—you can’t turn to someone and tell them “Feel grateful!” and expect it to happen.  You have to cultivate it.
  • Gratitude starts, I think, when we can be very clear about the things we have been given.
  • To some extent—this is something all of us know how to do:  the old make a list of your blessings.  I thank God for my pets, for my house, for my TV.  Kids are taught to do this early.
  • It’s not difficult to see things we like as blessings from God.  But what about other things?  Our likes, our dislikes?  Our preferences, our identity?  Our experiences, our perspective, our uniqueness?
  • When Ben and I hosted our nieces and nephew over the summer, they were surprised to discover that at our house, Ben does the cleaning and the dishwashing, while I do the cooking.  This wasn’t something they had seen before. We didn’t set out to teach them a lesson about the limitation of gender roles—it just sort of came up, because Ben really likes and is good at! cleaning and organizing.  (He has decided opinions on dishwashers.)  I, on the other hand….do not.  This is not my skill set.  But I am fond of cooking.  And I am grateful every day that I found a partner that both enjoys eating what I cook, and cleaning up afterwards.  
  • Part of how I learned gratitude here was recognizing what I didn’t have.  It’s very easy to feel grateful for someone’s gift that I lack.  And when I can recognize that I can help others with my own gifts, then I can begin to grow gratitude for that as well.
  • Beginning to notice is the way to build gratitude. This concentrated, defined attention—the sort that Simone Weil calls the most basic sort of prayer.  Noticing what I have that is unique, and also what others have—even in those moments when it seems like the uniqueness is somewhat pointless.  
  • I mentioned unique perspectives earlier.  That, too, is a place to build gratitude.  There are times when someone needs to hear exactly what we have been through and what our experience is.  And there are times when we need to hear from others.  This focused attention that builds gratitude needs to go both ways.  
  • After all, God has provided us with all that we need to follow God’s call.  Everything we need is right here.  When we approach what we have in a spirit of attention, and curiosity, when we cultivate the sort of gratitude that sees God as the source of all our life, then we will inevitably be astounded at all that God has gifted us with.

About megancastellan

Episcopal priest, writer, wearer of fancy shoes.

4 responses »

  1. Please don’t ever stop sharing!!!

    Reply
  2. I was totally surprised that it is not common practice to share sermon content
    I am a relatively new Episcopalian, but apparently have been blessed with Priests who shared and were flattered if you will if one wanted to share some gems from a sermon
    Plagiarism never entered my mind. In my innocence I simply assumed the words were for sharing
    I appreciate learning a new aspect of thought

    Reply
  3. I, for one, appreciate being able to read your sermons on line. If I missed a part or wasn’t in church that Sunday, or sometimes might bring it to the attention of a friend or family member who might like to read about a particular topic. Thanks and keep doing what your are doing!

    Reply
  4. Thanks for sharing. As you know, I’m one of those “sermon=oral experience shared in community” priests; I never plagiarize but reading written manuscripts helps me think. Also I miss being on a team with you & I find it keeps me in touch with you and your thoughts. And it’s an occasional wonder when we’ve preached similar sermons in our different communities. I preach to current events, including what’s directly or may or should be directly impacting my parish, and I especially like it when you do. Thanks.

    Reply

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