Sermon notes for July 12th 2015
St Thomas & All Saints, Ellesmere Port and St Lawrence’s, Stoak
Ordinary 15B, Proper 10B
What is your frame of mind? What frame of mind are you in?
Where are you on a scale of -5 to +5, where -5 is very negative and +5 is very posiitve?
Is it grim? Is it ecstasy?
What frame of mind are your loved ones in?
What frame of mind is your church in?
Where, on the scale -5 to +5?
What frame of mind is our society in? (Thinking of austerity, migrants, refugees, people on welfare)
What creates that frame of mind?
Things that happened to us as children, while we were still in the womb, things that happened to our parents, attitudes to learning, to school, to work, to neighbours, friendships, the opportunities that have been open to us, our health, our wealth
Where we live, whether in Belgravia with life expectancy of 91 or Stockton on Tees with life expectancy of 67,
Whether we are thriving, or just surviving, flourishing or languishing.
Can we change the frame of mind that we are in? Or does the frame of mind box us in, and box us round the ears? Can we be saved from a frame of mind, can we be reframed?
These are questions for the angels (all of whom are positive thinkers).
All those who are positive thinkers think we can change our frame of mind.
All those who are negative thinkers think they can’t – but the positive thinkers know they can change the frame of mind of the most negative, and that is the good news that Paul is talking about in the letter to the churches of Ephesus.
Listen to him again,
“Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ, to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.” That’s how and where he wants to see us – his frame.
But stuff happens to us doesn’t it? And it’s easy to think as the world thinks, or as the world tells us to think – to worry about tomorrow, to fret about what we’ll wear and how we present ourselves to others. We hurt, we suffer, we protect ourselves and our loved ones, we get angry, we get jealous.
Apparently, the more somebody thinks angry thoughts, the angrier they become. Anger narrows our thinking. When angry, people expect life to throw more annoyances at them. Angry people become more judgemental, their threshold for provocation is lowered, and they become negative about people who are not like them etc etc.
The negatives in our lives are so much more powerful than the positives.
Did you know, that to flourish, you have to have a ratio of 5 positives to 1 negative. That’s how strong the power of negative experiences are. Teachers have got it wrong – the guidance for feedback is “3 stars and a wish”. That’s only 3:1. We can get the possible feedback at work, we can be told we are doing a grand job, but the thing we leave with can be one negative comment. “There is one area of weakness that you need to work on”. That will bother us.
The negatives have far more power than the positives, and that is why they need to be so heavily outnumbered. We can live with a ratio of 3:1, but we don’t thrive. Anything less than 3:1 and we are nosediving, we’re languishing, just surviving.
These ratios work on a personal level, but they also work in all organisations – families, work, neighbourhoods, churches.
And that raises the question of how we can help one another, how can we help one another into a better frame of mind? How can we help our loved ones thrive? How can we help ourselves? How can we help our church?
5:1 – Anything from 5:1, but less than 11:1. Anything over 11:1 is going overboard – there needs to be critical awareness. The naysayer is good – we don’t want to be surrounded by yes men and women.
The summary list of positive emotions is: love, joy, gratitude, contentment, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration and awe. They are the Big 10. How can we help others and ourselves to more of these, so that we flourish, so that we bless and know our blessing?
The summary list of negative emotions is: fear, anger, sadness, disgust, contempt, shame, jealousy and envy. There only needs to be eight of them because of their power. It sounds like a description of the Daily Mirror doesn’t it? (I pick on the Daily Mirror only because it fits in with what I want to share in a minute). How do we limit their frequency and intensity?
It seems to me that Paul and Jesus were amazing encouragers in their preaching and teaching. It’s as if they want to get into our hearts and minds to turn the tables so that those voices which deal in fear, anger, sadness, disgust, contempt, shame, jealousy and envy are driven out.
The power of that encouragement is there in Paul’s letter to the churches of Ephesus. Paul layers it on in spades.
“God is so rich in kindness”, he says.
“He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding”, he says.
He wants us to believe in the one who wants to reframe our lives so that when he looks at us he sees his very image and likeness, to be framed by God’s purpose which is to bring everything together, even everything in heaven and everything on earth.
This is positive thinking, positive preaching – to change our minds.
But he doesn’t just want to change our minds. That isn’t good enough. He doesn’t just want us to believe, because that isn’t good enough.
There’s a connection between the words “believe” and “beloved”. Say them often enough and your hear the likeness. John’s gospel talks about the beloved disciple. Believing can be all in the head – it can be about things that have passed. He wants us to be beloved and be-loving. That’s when we believe from the heart. That’s when we are truly in a new frame of mind.
So we need big words, grand gestures in all the small steps of our lives. God is SO rich in kindness. God SHOWERS his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
What can we do for ourselves? How can we help one another? How can we help one another to flourish? What can we do as believing and beloved?
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What frame of mind are you in?
When you look in the Daily Mirror, what do you see?
The picture is called Tabula Rasa – which means a “clean slate”. It’s by Cecil Collins. We get a glimpse of a woman brushing her hair. Would she win a beauty contest? I don’t think so. Would she be wishing sho could have her roots done? Would she be counting the wrinkles? I don’t think so. She sees in her daily mirror her life transformed. Staring back at her is beauty with all her emotions of love, joy, gratitude, contentment, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration and awe – the very image of God – heaven and earth coming together in a frame of mind – a frame of mind to praise God.