Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

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"Good Morning, Lord!"

Ephesians 1: 3-10

Psalm 103: 19-104:4

      Here’s a quick and easy reference on the difference between an optimist and a pessimist:  the

optimist wakes up and declares, “Good morning, Lord!”  The pessimist wakes up and grouses,

“Good Lord, morning!”  A little bit of humor, and a whole lot of wisdom which says that we can

either welcome and bless the day, or we can dread and effectively curse it.  We have a choice. 

What was yours this morning? 

      There was a recent Facebook story about a man named Jerry who was widely admired for his

consistently upbeat and positive attitude.  Whenever asked how he was doing, Jerry would typically

answer:  “If I was any better, I’d be twins!”  Most people liked Jerry.  But there were those Debbie

Downer’s who couldn’t stomach his pollyannish approach to life.  I suppose they wanted him to

keep them company in their dread of the day. 

      The writer of the article once remarked to Jerry, “Now you can’t be a positive person all the

time.  Don’t you ever have a bad hair day?”  Jerry replied, “Of course I do, but I choose not to live

there.  I wake up each morning and say to myself: ‘Jerry, you have two ways to go today.  You can

choose to be in a good mood, or you can choose to be in a crappy mood.’  I choose to be in a good
mood.  When something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim, or I can choose to learn
from it.  I

choose to learn from it.  Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their

complaints and commiserate in their misery , or I can point out the positive side of life.  I choose the

positive side.”  Already at this point, you may have decided you like this Jerry guy, or that you can’t

stand him.  That may provide a clue as to where you stand on the optimism/pessimism continuum. 

We’ll return to Jerry’s story near the end of the message.

      There’s an inspiring Jewish tradition based on the same insight and wisdom by which Jerry

chooses to live; insight and wisdom which surely inspired the Psalmist when he wrote, perhaps in

the early hours of the morning, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad

in it.”  Or as we read from Psalm 104 this morning:  “Bless the Lord, O my soul, O Lord my God,

you are very great.”  That Jewish tradition is called berekhot – the daily blessings of everyday life. 

Each individual berekha is a little prayer of blessing to be said before many of a person’s daily activities. 

For example, there’s a specific berekha to be said upon rising in the morning; a berekha to be said before

getting dressed; another to be said before starting work; another to be said before going to the synagogue to worship. 

The berekha to be recited prior to a meal for example would be:  “Blessed are you, Lord our God, sovereign

of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”  The Yom berekha for yesterday’s Shabbat was: 

“Blessed are you, Lord our God, sovereign of the universe, who continues to teach the meaning of chesed, or mercy.” 

There’s a particular berekha which could have been recited during the massive thunder and lightning storm

we had last Tuesday evening:  “Blessed are you, Lord our God, sovereign of the universe, whose power and might fill the skies.”

      There is profound spiritual insight, and wisdom, and optimism in the berekhot tradition; that

these simple little prayers of blessing recognize, and celebrate, that all of our daily existence is a

holy gift from God to be given thanks for.  In fact, many of the Psalms serve as the foundation for

that Jewish berekhot tradition, which we Christians would be wise to incorporate into our own

spiritual lives. What better spiritual practice could there be than to acknowledge and affirm that

our lives are nothing less than holy gifts from the hand and heart of the Almighty; that we would

pray a little prayer, not just blessing our meals and our bedtimes, but blessing all activities – great

and small; that all we say and do may be said and done in God’s name; that all we say and do

 

would confirm the day as God’s blessing; that all we see as we look around us at God’s creation are

signs of God’s blessing.  And if we recognize God’s blessings all around us – blessings of spirit and

blessings of substance; blessings of creation and blessings of nature -- how can we wake up and

declare anything other than, “Good morning, Lord!”  Such an optimistic attitude was evident in the

life of one Italian Catholic friar of the Middle Ages, St. Francis of Assisi, to whom the words of our

opening hymn are attributed: “Thou fertile earth, that day by day, unfoldest blessings on the way….

The flowers and the fruits that in thee grow, let them God’s glory also show;” the good monk’s

lyrical way of declaring, “Good Morning, Lord!” 

      Deeply rooted in our Hebrew and Christian heritage is the affirmation that God is good; one  

which acknowledges God as Creator of a good material world filled with countless material blessings,

which are fundamentally spiritual blessings.  Psalm 104 goes on rejoicing:  “You are clothed with honor

and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment.  You stretch out the heavens like a tent,

you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you

ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.”

 Now that’s one awesome way of poetically exclaiming: “Good morning, Lord!”

     We might call this optimistic outlook based on the Lord’s goodness, power and provision a

“sacramental spirituality.”  In our reformed theological tradition, we understand sacrament as an

outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.  So, for instance, when we celebrate the
Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we recognize the bread and cup as symbolic of God’s sacrificing

love and forgiveness.  When we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism – as we will again next Sunday

-- we recognize the water to be symbolic of God’s acceptance, and God’s renewing of our inner

beings.  A sacramental spirituality sees everything in all creation – ordinary, everyday things for

which we can offer berekah – as outward and visible signs of inward and invisible grace.  Not only

can bread and grape juice and water bear witness to God’s grace.  So too may the clouds and the

winds; the sunset and the ocean wave; the blade of grass and the flowery meadow.  So too may

eating and drinking; singing and dancing; working and playing.

      I would suggest that the greeting from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read earlier is something

of a berekha as Paul gives thanks for the faithful disciples in the church at Ephesus.  He

opens:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with

every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places….”  Paul further goes on to connect our blessedness

in Christ with the created order when he writes of “all….things in heaven and things on earth” are

part of the “pleasure” and ultimate plan (God) set forth in Christ.”  Not a bad way of opening a letter

to the church with the sentiment: “Good Morning, Lord!”

       May the beauty of our worship in this holy place today lead us onto that holy ground, where all

life becomes blessed; sacred; sacramental; filled with evidence of God’s presence, power and

grace.  May the beauty of our surroundings here – the flowers, the stained glass, the furnishings,

along with our music, our liturgies, our praise and our fellowship – may all lead us to the joy of

those who find blessing just below the surface of our daily lives.  May we discover and exalt in the

grace-fullness of each new day we are granted, and demonstrate the optimism befitting those who

recognize God’s blessing in virtually everything.

      Now let’s get back to Jerry’s story.  Jerry was a restaurant owner.  One day, he was held up in

his place of business by three armed robbers who shot him and left him for dead.  Rushed to a

trauma center, his life hanging in the balance, he underwent eight hours of surgery.  When asked in

 the emergency room if he was allergic to anything, Jerry managed to reply:  “Bullets.”  After the

doctors and nurses stopped giggling, Jerry whispered just before losing consciousness, “I’m

choosing to live.  Operate on me as if I’m half alive, not half dead.” Following several weeks in the

hospital, and with bullet fragments still in his body, he was released.  It was about six months later

when the author of Jerry’s story saw him again.  She asked him how he was.  He replied, “If I was

any better, I’d be twins.”  “Jerry lived,” she later wrote, “thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also

because of his amazing attitude.  I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. 

Attitude, they say, is everything.”

      Let’s be Jerry kind of people, choosing to embrace all that life has to offer.  Let’s be a berekhot

kind of people, choosing to find and acknowledge with a little prayer God’s blessing in all that life

has to offer.  Let’s arise to each new day grousing not, “Good Lord, morning!”, but rather declaring,

“Good morning, Lord!”

  

God of creation, Lord of our lives, it’s easy to fall into patterns of negativity and pessimism, for

life is not easy.  Surrounded as we are by suffering, difficulty and struggle, we too often see the

glass as half empty.  Help us Lord, in the Spirit of Your grace and love, to break out of such patterns,

and to see your goodness shining through.  May we acknowledge in our prayers your

daily blessings, big and small.  Shape and form us as people of the Berekhot, in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

 

Central Presbyterian Church

47 Second Street NE
Massillon, Ohio 44646

Telephone: 330-832-7455
Fax: 330-832-7102