I read this quotation from the late Henri Nouwen, a great Christian writer and thinker: “Gratitude in its deepest sense means to live life as a gift to be received gratefully. But gratitude as the gospel speaks about it embraces all of life: the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and not so holy.”
I know, it’s a long way from the second Monday in October, but there are many reasons to be thankful all year long. These days, I’m thinking about gratitude in the church and gratitude for the church. If you’re like me, it’s easy to take the church for granted: that the volunteers who serve will always do so, that the building will always be in good repair, that the ministry will always be excellent. Yet part of what helps the church be all it can be is gratitude – gratitude to God, and even gratitude to those who work with God to make the church all it can be in Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Colossae, a city in what’s now Turkey. It was a declining city, but it had a growing church, thanks to the spade work of one of Paul’s converts, Epaphras. Alongside the growth, however, came theological attack: the church was being bombarded by those who believed the Christian gospel was wrong-headed and needed to be chopped down a notch or two. So in his letter, along with extolling the value of strong, firm Christian doctrine, Paul wrote to tell the church that he gave God thanks for it: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints” (Colossians 1.3-4, NIV).
Paul gave thanks for the church, which was faithful in the midst of persecution. Pastors, do you give thanks for your church? Church members, do you give thanks for your church? God responds to our gratitude, and so do people. As Nouwen said, we are called to be grateful even when things are not rosy. The life of the church is not always perfect, but we are called to gratitude even when, on the surface, there seems to be little for which to be grateful. Yet there is much for which to be grateful.
I am grateful to God for the church I serve. I am grateful to the church I serve!
Be thankful, and be amazed at the response you will see, both from God and from God working through the church. In these days, like in no other time in living memory, does the church need our support and our gratitude.
Be the church. And keep up the good work of being the church!