I am praying for the laity and clergy of the Mountain Sky Conference as we prepare to come together for worship.
This week, dining room tables will groan under the weight of the bounty of Thanksgiving dishes: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green bean casseroles, sweet potatoes, and pies, pies, and more pies. One thing that will happen, which in many homes doesn’t happen at every meal, will be the bowing of heads for a brief prayer of thanksgiving. Even though Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, it is the one time of the year that no matter one’s tradition or whether one has a religious orientation at all, there is a spiritual pause of gratitude before digging into the meal.
It's easy to give thanks when our cups (or tables) are full. But does “thank you” spill from our lips and hearts as easily when we are down to our last ramen noodle pack? We exclaim “Thank God” when we arrive safely home in a storm, but giving thanks is the last thing on our mind when the test results come back positive.
Paul, in I Thessalonians 5 admonishes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.”
Paul isn’t an etiquette coach. He doesn’t say, “Give thanks when things are going your way” or “Remember to say thank you when someone opens a door for you,” He is seeking a change in orientation, an attitude of gratitude in all the circumstances of life. One isn’t giving thanks for the hot meal or the illness. One is giving thanks for the presence of God who is sitting with you at table, even when no one else is there. We are to give thanks for a God who will walk through the valleys of despair with us, when all others have left us. We are to give thanks because even when things feel so uncertain and chaotic, there is one who will lead us beside still waters and will renew our soul.
My mother seldom went to church when I was young. A single mother with three young daughters, the hour we were in Sunday School was the one hour she took all week for herself. But one Sunday when my sisters and I were singing in the children’s choir, she attended the service and the sermon she heard forever changed our evening routine.
The pastor gave a sermon on prayer and thanksgiving. He said that the least we can do is pause in prayer when we sit down to eat and give thanks to God. Saying grace became a daily ritual, and that ritual helped orient my family away from a focus on what we didn’t have to what we did have—a God who surrounded us in love even when we felt hopeless, helpless, and alone.
May this Thanksgiving be the start of a daily practice of giving thanks…in all things. May it change how we take stock of our lives and how we walk in the world.