This Sunday, we will gather as a community of faith to receive and bless the pledge cards for the Pledge Your Love Campaign. This is an important spiritual exercise where we offer to God that which He has blessed us with - life, family, friends, community. The idea of a good life raises important existential questions... Is life today as good as it gets? And is what we have been given good? How can it be good when it is often punctuated with heartbreaks, pain, and destruction? A few days ago I visited with a parishioner who asked such a question about the meaning of life. These are tough questions which have no easy answers. The good news, however, is that there are ways in which we can live with these questions, and they are tied up with the choices we have to make during life's often cold winter - both chronologically, and experientially.
For me, this is the main reason why maintaining, keeping, or wearing an attitude of gratitude becomes such an important part of our lives. The gift of gratitude makes it possible for us to discover within ourselves the voice that offers praise - to say “thank you!” Our reality is one in which the human ability to praise may be the most important gift given to us by God. For it speaks of a natural response to our bewilderment at the goodness of existence - even during the cold winter months when all is bleak and dreary, when all we have left to turn to is a God who appears to be absent from us. What gives me great joy is that when our grateful impulse rises, when human life begins to sparkle, even in the darkness of the soul’s winter, gratitude brings the rumor of good news and the hint that spring is on the way and that God never abandons us. It takes an attitude of gratitude to feed on the impulses that looks beyond its present challenges.
It is often tempting to conclude that we can only grieve or thank God in the privacy of our homes. But there’s something significant and transformative about coming together to publicly thank God, even during those winter months of grief. That is why Christ Church and its varied and growing ministries become particularly important during this time - not only for those who have found this to be their spiritual home, but also for those who have not, and for those may yet come along. Our continued existence and our thriving ministries make it possible for all of us to hold each other up in prayer, give thanks for each other, and to touch others in transformative ways. This, too, demands an attitude of gratitude.
The psalmist asked a rhetorical question, “What can I give back to God for the blessings He’s poured out on me?’ To this question, Saah Johnson - a parishioner - will respond that God doesn’t need our money, God simply need our hearts. Hearts that are willing to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise, hearts that are willing to adopt an attitude of gratitude, hearts that are willing to honor the Lord with their substance, and with the first fruits of their increase, as Proverbs teaches.
Teilard de Chardin once remarked that “Humanity is being taken to the point where it will have to choose between suicide and adoration.” At Christ Church, however, we intend to choose adoration; more to the point, we choose thanksgiving, not only for what God has done in our lives but for what God continues to do in our lives. And for that reason, we can wear an attitude of gratitude.
God has been more than good to us, and to our community of faith. In my world, YOU make life happen here at Christ Church because of your attitude of gratitude. Without your generous support, we wouldn’t be able to grow new ministries, deepen existing ones, or be deeply involved in the business of helping transform the lives of the children of God who find themselves on the margins of our society. It is for these reasons, and many more, that we bid your kind generosity - that the voice of thanksgiving may soar within you, particularly at this time.
I've learned that sometimes thanksgiving comes more easily. At other times, it is more of a sacrifice. Saint John of Avila (1500–1569) wrote, ‘One act of thanksgiving when things go wrong with us is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclination.’ So then, whether thanksgiving is easy or a sacrifice, it is worth our effort and more.
The psalmist was so moved by God’s graciousness that he/she remarked that, "I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice and pray in the name of God. I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it in company with his people, in the place of worship, in God’s house." At Christ Church, if you will.
I therefore invite you to join us at Christ Church this Sunday, where we will gather all the pledges for the year, offer a prayer together to the God who has been more than good to us, and calls upon us to heartily wear an attitude of gratitude.
Thanks so much. See you on Sunday!