The full text and audio of this sermon are available here.

For many of us grateful living is synonymous with service, a key component of Dr. King’s philosophy of The Beloved Community.

When we recognize that the numerous gifts in and of our lives come to us unearned, entitlement falls away. It can be a simple next step to see the difficulties experienced by others as equally undeserved and to want to ensure that all people have access to the safety, rights, comfort, and privileges that we might enjoy.

An important impact of grateful living is that it cultivates a sense of sufficiency and abundance, making us more available to life, to service, and to the courage and commitment that support taking a stand for meaningful change.

“Grateful living means many things to many people, but for me it hinges on service and learning,” writes Anthony Chavez, a former Board member of A Network for Grateful Living and the grandson of iconic civil rights and farm labor leader, Cesar Chavez, in a blog post. “Looking back I don’t recall explicitly talking much about living gratefully in my home but it was modeled all around me. Early on I learned that the highest human virtue is compassionately serving others. We were taught, as most others, that life is a gift and we ought to be grateful for it. But for us it wasn’t about counting blessings as much as recognizing everyone’s dignity. Don’t get me wrong, counting your blessings is important but it need not stop with oneself when we can divide each other’s pain and multiply our joys.”

Anthony speaks to the value and importance of not simply noticing and appreciating our blessings (although that practice is transformative in and of itself) but also acting from a place of the great-fullness of our lives. In so doing we can participate in changing the lives of others, and the world.

In his sermon, The Drum Major Instinct, excerpted above, Dr. King speaks of our desire to be recognized and praised as a basic instinct. He invites us to consider what it is we wish to be praised for. As he approaches the end of the sermon, Dr. King declares:

If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.

Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, (Yes) not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.

And so, on this day celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., we invite you to reflect upon your gifts, capacities, and/or privileges and consider how you might serve the world today.

In love, justice, truth, and commitment to others, how might we make of this old world a new world?

We welcome hearing from you in the reflection area below…

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