From Fruitful to Grateful
O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; for God’s steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1
After focusing on fruitful living for the fall, where do we go next? This month we enter the “official” season of thanksgiving, but as people of faith we are called to be thankful all year-round. Nonetheless, this time of year brings the practice of gratitude front and center.
This month our Sunday School children will be learning the story of the 10 lepers (Luke 17:11-19). Ten lepers approach Jesus, begging for mercy. Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priests, which can only mean one thing – that the lepers have been healed of their disease and are now able to re-enter the life of the community. Stunned by their good fortune, the lepers rush off to find the nearest priest so they can be declared clean. Surprisingly, only one of the lepers turns around and comes back to Jesus to say thank you. He kneels at Jesus’ feet, praising God and shouting his gratitude at the top of his voice. And this guy was a Samaritan, not even one of the insiders who should’ve known better!
What this Samaritan leper experiences and then does provides a window into our own Christian story. Anglican bishop and biblical scholar N.T. Wright writes, “When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.” Our experience of God’s love and grace leads to overwhelming gratitude for all of God’s gifts and blessings to us.
It is one thing to feel gratitude; however, it is another to actually express it. Henry Van Dyke once wrote, “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” Thanksgiving is turning our feelings and our faith into practice, real words and actions.
In his 1963 Thanksgiving Proclamation, President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” As people of faith, we are called not just to count our blessings and feel grateful; we are called to express our gratitude, through our words and actions, in our daily living, worshipping God and sharing our blessings with others.
I am incredibly grateful for this congregation and all the ways you help me express my gratitude to God, through worship and prayer, through learning and relationships, through so many opportunities for service! This month in particular, we are invited to express our gratitude and practice God’s generosity through the Midnight Run, our Food Pantry, the Thanksgiving Offering, and our pledges of time, talent and treasure for 2017, as well as ongoing opportunities like preparing meals for Jan Peek and the Noontime Meal program in Peekskill.
So this Thanksgiving, let’s count our blessings. And then let us express our gratitude, giving thanks with our words and our actions, our faith and our lives, to God the giver of all good gifts.
See you in church – Tami