This week NPR ran a story about the health benefits of gratitude. Paul Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, has been doing some research. His initial findings indicated that, among people with heart damage, those who were grateful did better than those who were not. The more grateful, the better.
Next, Dr. Mills conducted a smaller follow-up. 40 people were recruited, and 20 were asked to keep a journal each day, documenting a small number of things for which they were grateful, anything that came to mind. Two months later he checked in with the patients. For those who wrote in their journals about their gratitude,
Inflammation levels were reduced, and heart rhythm improved. And when he compared their heart disease risk before and after journal writing, there was a decrease in risk after two months of writing in their journals. ("Gratitude is Good for the Soul and helps the Heart, too," by Patty Neighmond, on npr.org)
All of this is a lead-in to my own offering of thanks for each of you, for our congregation, and for the journey of faith that we share together. We have been through a number of experiences over these last years. God has been faithful, and has led us to a new place with a deeper understanding of our mission. We have discovered new friends, and have entered a new partnership. We have seen God move in amazing ways. I'm so very grateful.
Now, the journey is not yet over. Christmas Eve is around the corner, and we are hosting a grand opening of New Springs Community. Even as I offer you my deepest thanks, I also want you to know that we have a lot of work to do. We will be celebrating new members in December. The building is being painted, and we can use some help. We will be making some changes in the setup as well. Legal and financial technicalities of a name change are underway. You'll soon hear about a new website, a new Facebook page, and perhaps some other forms of social media. There will be signage. Of course, there will be some expenses associated with these as well. We're minimizing the cost, but there will still be expenses, and we'll need everyone to join together to meet these needs.
Most importantly, this is the time to be present. We are seeing new faces in worship services. There is much energy, and building momentum. Our message series in December will focus on a number of dreams and visions in the Bible. We'll talk about how God works through dreams and gives and fulfills visions. We'll talk about what that means for each of us individually, and what it means for all of us together.
There has never been a Christmas Eve service that was more important to the life of our congregation. We will tell the great and good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we do each and every week. We need you to be there. We need you to invite friends and family, neighbors and colleagues. We need you to adjust your plans around the service. We need you to be praying.
For those of you who have been connected with one of our former congregations for a number of years, you've been waiting for this. In fact, you've hoped and prayed for this. For those of you who have connected with New Springs more recently, this is an outgrowth of our desire to be a different kind of ministry in the city and region we love. You all know the heart and philosophy of this ministry. We believe that Jesus calls us to follow him. We believe that everyone is welcome.We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are God's Word for us, and even so we struggle together to understand that Word. We believe the journey of faith is personal and individual, but we know we can't do it alone. We believe that our greatest opportunity in the community is to present ourselves as humble and loving servants to others. We believe the community needs a church like ours. We believe that there are many, many people who have yearning and hopeful spirits, and are waiting to build genuine relationships with Christ followers. But they aren't looking to come to a church. They are waiting for us to care for them, to recognize them, to listen to them, to offer ourselves to them without an agenda. And, seeing Jesus doing something in us, we believe they will be drawn to the same love that first drew us toward God.
Now is the time.
This Thanksgiving, I'm so very grateful, for God's love through Jesus, and for the people in whom I see that love. That's you, by the way.
I'm also motivated, excited, hopeful, and ready to take the next step.