An Ecumenical Thanksgiving Homily: Greeting The Day With Gratitude
Each Day of our lives can be filled with hope or be seen as being rich with blessings. These blessings are those thoughts and feelings that nourish our hearts and souls.
The source of those feelings is found in the rich resources of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the chief virtues within Christianity. As the Gospel clearly suggests, it is the preface to any of Jesus’ miracles, to Communion, to feeding the 5000, and giving thanks to God often precedes any healing, or efforts at church renewal. Gratitude is our guideline for affirming what is truly good in our lives today.
Gratitude in its simplest manifestation is what the poet ee cummings called the willingness to say “Yes” to life. It is found at the basis for any real optimism, any expectation that is respect worthy, and it is the foundation of our free church’s faith and belief in following Christ. As Christians, we diligently and sincerely attempt to model our lives based on Jesus’ gratitude to God and his compassionate attitude towards others.
On a more personal level, our daily outlook will often determine the amount and the quality of our grateful feelings. The thoughts and feelings we embody will comprise the dawning of each day’s hopes and aspirations, each day’s aims and goals.
When we wake up, or on arising each morning, can we say with the Psalmist, ” This is the day the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad”? I hope that you can. Doe you take time or give attention to greet other people warmly, to count your blessings, or at least be grateful for what is good and right in your life, rather than immediately begin to dwell on duties and obligations, or focus on what irritates you or what is wrong with today?
As we become more conscious of the positive and sustaining values, the love and hope we share, we pave the way for a greater understanding and appreciation of God’s grace, and for our part in sustaining the goodness and the truth we can find living in God’s world.
When we wake up, or while we are standing at the bathroom mirror, taking the time to get our physical appearance just the way we like it, do you look at your reflection and give yourself a big, warm smile?
Do you stop and ask yourself, what am I grateful for today? Even if all that comes to mind is that its Monday, its cold or rainy, or that it is some famous person’s birthday… whatever comes to mind,… Can you rearrange your thinking so that you can you smile, accept yourself and be positively expectant of what blessings might be in store for you, then begin to celebrate another day of life? Life cannot be so bad or sad that you cannot find something to give thanks for while you are standing there.
If you have another moment, after giving thanks to God, or whatever you consider to be your source for Good, and after finding something that you are personally thankful for, take a little time to go deeper, or expand your thought a little wider and include the efforts to stop hunger and homelessness, to end violence and world strife. Lastly, I ask that you end your considerations with your gratitude for this church community, for your willingness to be a positive contributor to its future, so that we might extend, grow and serve others.
Greeting the day with gratitude is a divinely authored request. It is given to us that we might experience the blessings of inner peace and outer harmony. Gratefulness is the heart of prayer, and its aim is to promote love today and each day of our lives. Without gratitude, life can become cynical or opportunistic. The nine lepers might have remained healed, but it was the one who offered thanks that Jesus considered to be a more spiritual and heartfelt act of faith.
Here’s a small example from my life, one I will have to continue to work on, but its an expression of gratitude that relieves my anxiety whenever I remember …
When I am faced with having to pay yet another staggering utility bill, (mortgage payment, etc.), instead of dwelling on its ability to break the budget or drain the checkbook, I try to feel some gratitude for a warm house or whatever the service is that is being provided to me. I try to marvel at how the gas came to my heater, and the electricity for my lights. When I succeed, there is a feeling of appreciation for modern miracles that had previously escaped me.
Thanksgiving for me can mean the joy and appreciation that can be found putting more of God’s wonderful provisions in each day; more than I can ever recall or thank I can give enough thanks for, knowing that the Holy Spirit abides forever. God’s love is eternal, and by my willingness to acknowledge those blessings, I can tap into the greatest , constant source for blessings in life. Such understanding allows me to begin to express the qualities of God or Soul at work inside and out, in whatever way life has in store for any of us that day.
Our gratitude for what each day holds, helps us to care for things larger than ourselves, care for institutions, for charities, for all the ways humanity and Nature are benefited from our concern. As we learn to act out of gratitude, which is to say, when we learn to act out of the measure of grace given to us, we can create and sustain a culture that truly seeks to become God’s kingdom among us. Such gratitude lifts each of us and this church community up, and provides us with what we truly need for our lives. Such is the message of Thanksgiving, today, and everyday….
(Invitation to congregation to share what you are grateful for in your lives…)