From the Preacherman….
Thank you. Thank you for all of the acts of kindness expressed to
me and my family during pastor appreciation month. We are grateful and
cannot express the deep and abiding joy we feel for being here during this
time. Your words, cards and gifts have been a blessing to us in the most
trying days I have experienced as a pastor. Thank you for each thing.
Words of gratitude and thanksgiving are not easily expressed. Very
early in my ministry I noticed this during the prayer time in worship at
church. People were willing to share concerns out loud, even deep
struggles, and have us all pray for them. However, aside from a few things
here and there, we were silent on matters for which we were thankful. So,
I started a practice which continues to this day. I always ask in worship,
“What are you thankful for?”
Often people do not answer, or won’t say anything, or simply smile
shyly. That is ok. Just think for a few seconds. I will wait. Deep gratitude
takes a moment. But given the space and time we start to open the eyes of
our hearts to notice with breathtaking wonder the world around us….the
spectacular display of color in the trees this autumn, the astonishing flavor
in that smoked ham, the steadfast faith of church members through the
difficult days of pandemic, the beauty of the flowers leaving the church
kitchen each Monday, chili dogs from the Varsity (sorry; not really).
Do we say it? Are we aware of what we have been given? For me
one of the greatest losses of our quarantine from each other in worship is
the missed time of shared thanksgiving. I did not realize how much the
practice had become for me a true, deep spiritual discipline, something
practiced over and over until it became second nature. I have learned to
look for things for which to be grateful, while at the same time
acknowledging the deep losses and struggles in this world and my life.
Both are necessary in prayer: thanksgiving and lament, gratitude and
sorrow. One without the other leaves us wobbly, limping in circles without
honesty or direction.
And what is the gift of our thanksgiving? These days the response
to “Thank you” is likely to be “No problem” or “Sure thing” or even “No,
thank you!” Ok, those are fine, but they miss the mark. What is the
appropriate, profoundly moving response to our thanks? You’re welcome.
God’s response to our gratitude is “You’re welcome.” Is there anything
more gracious than that? Try it and see.