This is the text of my Thanksgiving letter to the church family at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. I share the same sentiments and prayers with you!
It’s Thanksgiving Day, again! I realize that some of us may not have been raised with a family or cultural tradition around the official holiday of Thanksgiving, but I know we all have people and blessings in our lives which cause us to be thankful. When next you spend some time with St. Paul’s letters to the churches, watch for how many times he expresses thankfulness or encourages it in his readers. He often begins letters with his thankfulness and adds thankfulness as an ending to important ideas, like in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” He mentions gratitude and thankfulness in each of the next two verses as well, wrapping up a longer discussion in the chapter about setting our minds on Christ and living lives of blessing to one another.
Gratitude is a foundation for living joyfully, blessing others around us and for facing all the seasons of life, the best and the most trying. And gratitude is not just a decision or a feeling, but it’s also a practice. We do gratitude. It can be practiced in many ways, with a thankfulness journal, sharing our gratitude with friends and family, simply saying thank you, and it should always be part of prayers.
Speaking of prayers, let’s look at A General Thanksgiving on page 836 of The Book of Common Prayer. It has a beautiful way of leading us to explore all the areas of gratitude in our lives…
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love. We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
I love the way this prayer takes us on a short journey through all the various seasons and landscapes of life; we have the world around us, the people around us, the work we do and the work of God in us. Seasons and landscapes may change, and days can be better or worse, but gratitude is a constant upon which we can build our lives.
How will we practice gratitude on Thanksgiving Day? How can we weave the practice into daily life? I invite you to try some different things, from listing items of gratitude (counting our blessings), to taking some quiet time to meditate on sources of joy in life. And in all things I pray that God blesses you in the day on Thursday and in all of the coming holiday season.
With peace, Rev Todd
Colossians 3:15, “And be thankful.”
And be thankful. I’ve always liked the way that St. Paul would throw that in here and there, and he does it often. He does in his letter the Colossians in chapter 2 as well, speaking of being rooted and grown up in Christ he adds an “and be thankful” for good measure in verse 7.
When our passage ended with those words yesterday I knew I’d have to come back and use them again. I don’t think St. Paul scatters them around without intention and meaning… I think he sows his letters with the seeds of gratefulness hoping for a nice harvest in the lives of his readers!
I believe that thankfulness, or gratefulness, or gratitude, whichever word we choose, is a seriously underrated theme in scripture and a solid foundation for civility. Ingratitude and being unthankful leads to a lot of harshness in our words and missed opportunities to build one another up. St. Ignatius said, “I think that that ingratitude is at the root of all sinfulness.” Amen. I’m declaring him the patron saint of our Thanksgiving this year and including a painting of him I made a couple of years ago. =)
Be grateful! Be joyous! Love with gusto!