I know many of you are wondering what kind of word this is and what does it mean. This is one of the first words that I learned as a child. Medaase simply means "thank you" in my native Fanti - I thank you for your kindness and generosity. I thank you for the self-emptying that makes your generosity possible. I thank you for the faith that provides you with more than enough reason to give generously to God.
Last Sunday, we gathered as a community to offer a Prayer of Stewardship composed by Thomas Merton. We each brought our pledge cards forward and put them in the offering basket. Some of us pledged online. Some of us mailed in our pledges. Some of us dropped our pledges off. It was humbling to witness the joy on all of our faces. For that, and for many blessings, I say, "Medaase."
I am sure you will agree with me that one of the noblest human traits is the ability to say, "Medaase." I think it is noble because it tells of a much bigger story about human interdependence, and best of all, it reminds us of the virtue of humility.
Permit me to share a story about Hannah with you (we will actually read this story on Sunday): Hannah was married to Elkanah but she struggled to have children. Her rival, Penninah, would provoke her simply because of her inability to be pregnant and have kids. This situation bothered Hannah a lot, and she would spend time crying over this apparent ‘misfortune.’
In an effort to overcome this situation, Hannah committed herself to prayer, and prayed that God would open her womb so she may have a child and dedicate the child to God. God listened to Hannah’s prayer and gave her a son whom she named Samuel. In her excitement and overwhelming joy, Hannah prays this prayer of thanksgiving, Hannah sings Medaase to God. Hear her words: “My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong. Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me. No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one beside you; there is no Rock like our God.”
In a few days, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. For many of us, it feels like there’s nothing to celebrate, nothing to be thankful for, and no reason to say, "Medaase."
But I bid you to stay with me for a moment. Back in my tropical, native Ghana, we only have two seasons: wet season and dry season. The wet season is the time of lushness and flourishing because of the abundant rain. Everything looks good and perfect. The dry season, on the other hand, offers scorching sunlight, humidity, and dry air.
The reality is that these two seasons may resonate with all the seasons of our lives, where the wet season tells of our flourishing and the dey season tells of our hardships and suffering. To have the capacity within you to say, "Medaase" whether it’s wet or dry season, Henri Nouwem shares this reflection:
“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives - the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections - that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.”
For me, that is why our stewardship becomes incredibly important because it touches the core of who we are as people of faith - people who give not out of convenience, but because we understand the purpose of our giving, and we are even more thankful for the opportunity to give.
To those of us who have returned our pledges, on behalf of all of us, I say, "Medaase." To those of us who are still praying over our decision to pledge, on behalf of all of us, I say, "Medaase." Without your support over the years, we wouldn’t be able to do the sort of work God has given us to do.
I hope that each of you knows and believes that we count on each other, we depend on each other and we thrive as a faith community because we all believe in the first gift - which is life itself. And for the gift of life itself, I say, "Medaase," for this expression of thankfulness is the response to the surprise of our very existence.
If you have never been drunk with gratitude before, listen to Rumi: “Gratitude is the wine of the soul. Go on. Get drunk.” I pray that you fill your life with the glory of being grateful.
Thank you very much!