Here we are, it is almost Thanksgiving and while Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, this national holiday provides a welcome opportunity for all God’s children to come together in a spirit of unity to return thanks. Acts of giving thanks are something we experience in every worship setting in nearly every faith persuasion. In worship we are invited to give thanks for answered prayers. We are invited to give thanks for the presence of God with us and for the saving acts of Jesus Christ. We are invited to give thanks to God for all that God has given us and recognize that all we have been given by God is given to be used to be a blessing of hope, light, love, and life for others.
The national day of Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity for coming together with family and friends. It is also a wonderful opportunity to gather together as ecumenical and interfaith communities to give thanks and to build hope for what we can accomplish together for the betterment of our world. However, in this inherent opportunity there is also a danger. Because we have this day of Thanksgiving, we are often tempted to relegate much of our thanksgiving to this one day when scripture calls us to be a thankful people every day. Scripture and the gift of Jesus calls us to be full of thanksgiving every day and to humbly melt into gratitude for the extreme privilege of having life.
Now, giving thanks, being grateful, living with gratitude, does not imply a passive resignation to things as they are. Instead, a continual practice of giving thanks to God and for what God through Christ has done for us can actually focus our energies and empower us to take action by staying grounded in the present and offering our gifts and our passion generously, instead of getting caught up in swirling anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, or a need for control. God is in control. Be thankful! God has and will provide us with what we need. Be thankful! We can trust God and use the gifts that God has given us to be a part of what God is always making new. Be thankful!
Gratitude, giving thanks daily, is the best antidote for the sense of emptiness, loss of meaning and value that seems to haunt, agonize, and disrupt our society. When we adopt a daily practice of giving thanks we recognize that we have life given to us with each breathe we take, we have the wonder and beauty of creation all around us to inspire us and to enjoy, we have family, friends, and neighbors near and far with whom we share love and compassion, we have the capacity to create beauty in this world, we have a spirit that can open to God’s Spirit, we have a teacher, guide, savior, and friend in Jesus, and we have a church family that helps us grow in love, wisdom, generosity, and service. All of this, all of this is given to us by God. All this is cause for wonder and awe. All of this is God’s grace-filled gift to us, a gift we did not create or earn. So be thankful!
In this Thanksgiving season, I invite you to be thankful and to make this Thanksgiving Day a time to remember all that God has done for you, for me, for us, and give thanks! Additionally, may your commitment and prayer at this Thanksgiving be to make every day a day of gratitude and an occasion for giving thanks. The more grateful we are, the more open we are to being filled with and sharing God’s endless stream of gifts in ways that enable us to be effective co-creators with God in building God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. May it be so!
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball