Dear Grace Church Family and Friends,
There are moments when current circumstances really can make us think of all Human endeavor as a “Rat Race”. Or, as the writer of Ecclesiastes would put it, “a chasing after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:1 “’Vanity, vanity, all is vanity’, sayeth the Preacher.” KJV) I don’t need to quote any headlines here. We all get this. Our current moment got me to searching for what to say about Thanksgiving Day as I was pondering Paul’s statements about thankfulness in his Letters to the Thessalonians (5:18, “In all things give Thanks.” NRSV), and to the Philippians (4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” NRSV) Then I read the following reflection by Bishop Porter Taylor of Virginia for this week. His words reminded me that Paul’s word for thanksgiving is the same as our name for the Communion Feast: Eucharist. Whether it is in worship and liturgy, or in any other moment, it is thankfulness and gratitude that sets us free to lift our heads and rejoice in the midst of “all things”. Here is Bishop Porter’s reflection.
The Great Thanksgiving: “There’s a reason we call the second half of the Eucharist “The Great Thanksgiving.” We come to receive the sacraments from a position of thanks because we recognize that all of life is a gift. “All things come from Thee O Lord and of Thine own have we given Thee.” All things. The Great Thanksgiving isn’t merely a section of the liturgy; it’s a stance or a perspective we are invited to take in order to focus ourselves on God and not ourselves nor those we may wish to blame for the current condition. Joanna Macy, the co-author of Active Hope, writes, “Gratitude pulls us out of this rat race. It shifts our attention from what’s missing to what’s there.”
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” because this day is the only day we have to be alive. More importantly we are alive. Giving thanks is not a means of avoiding the issues of the world. Giving thanks gives us the faithful perspective to address those issues because we remember everything is not up to us. God is always the key player. When we give thanks, we change our orientation and realize our job is to align ourselves with God’s movement.
It’s not that we ignore the hurts and pains and inequities and divisions in the world. It’s that we don’t let those define how we see the world or ourselves or God’s grace. Thanksgiving gives us a glimpse into what the world could be and is designed to be. Our gratitude for what we have received or experienced is the catalyst for realizing that everyone deserves abundant life. Instead of thinking we are special, we see that everyone is special because every person is a child of God.
So, this week and every week, let us give thanks and cultivate a practice of thanksgiving. If Joanna Macy is correct, it’s the first step toward participating in the divine movement of changing the world.”