All are welcome

Literacy of Faith: Thank!

Philippians 4:4-9 Common English Bible (CEB)

4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.

How many times a day to you say Thanks? Thank You? Offer your praise for something? And the biggest question – experience Joy?

I get it that you can say “Thank you” too often and it becomes lame, empty and superfluous. But, how often do you take things for granted, begin to expect them, even get angry or frustrated when things don’t go your way.

And, if we were truthful, for many of us, our anxiety and/or frustrations far outweigh our joy.

There was a time when I was living in St. Louis, it was close to a holiday and my Mom called. In exasperation she asked, “When are you going to be on the road home? I just need to know when to start worrying!”

You mothers will possibly gang up with my Mom on this, but why does worry supersede joy in the very fact that I am coming home?

The boys who wrote “Never Pray Again” write the following:

What we are after is training ourselves to trust. Trust over time becomes joy as we discover we’ve stumbled onto the truth–that there really is enough for everyone-and this truth destroys our fear. Joy leads to greater generosity, which leads to deepening trust and more joy. This is the cycle of thanksgiving. The more we give, the more grateful we find ourselves for what we have been given, and the greatest thing we have been given is the opportunity to give.”[1]

Did you hear it?

Trust is foundational to thanksgiving.

Joy, generosity and trust are at the root of being thankful. How often do we fail to see or fail to notice the joy in the moment because we are hung up on what is lacking or what isn’t correct in our judgmental perceptions. There isn’t enough.

There isn’t enough knowledge.

There isn’t enough skill.

There aren’t enough people.

There isn’t enough patience.

There isn’t enough time.

There aren’t enough safe practices.

There aren’t enough servings.

There isn’t enough!

It’s not right!

And so we buy and buy and buy and do and do and do believing that if we just keep at it, eventually there will be enough.

Or, we just worry and worry and become frustrated and more frustrated missing all of the joy and generosity that is around us to be experienced.

I know when I haven’t stopped often enough, when I am tired or when I am not in the space that I need to be – my joy is missing. When all I can see is what’s missing or not right, my heart and soul are caught up in the ways of humankind missing all of the glory of thanksgiving of the wonders all around me.

God has just become a towering, distant, judging God, “looming like a vast thundercloud, and seeking to inspire fearful and cringing obedience… In turn, we worship and give thanks to God, in hope that we will appease God, or at least make God temporarily happy. We imagine God, arms crossed, glowering, saying something like, ‘Yes, worship me–it is the least that I deserve from you.’”[2]

This is not a Thank-Full God. This is not a God of generosity or joy. This is not a God of love, grace and compassion.

Look around you–see the phenomenal world that you are allowed to experience. One minute it’s 55-60 and the next it’s 28 and snowing. Amazing.

Have you noticed the mountains and valleys around here lately–the gorgeousness that is the landscape around us here?

Have you noticed all the twinkling lights on the hillsides that were hidden two months ago?

Have you noticed the roof that covers you, the food you consume and/or the vehicle that transports you?

Have you noticed that person beside you – who did the dishes, who bought groceries, who planned and prepared a meal, who finished the laundry?

And if you really want to believe in a generous God, to believe that there is enough, to truly start understanding what it means to be full of thanks, start giving stuff away.

Thank-Fullness manifests itself in generosity – offering what you have to those you encounter. One of the first lessons of our ancestors – make an offering of your first fruits.[3] Can you imagine living in a time where famine is right around the corner? Can you imagine a time with no machines, no easy way to till the soil, tend the crops or harvest the plants? And, now you want me to give my FIRST fruits away?   What about taping the first dollar to the wall behind the cash register?

“Oh but that’s mine. That’s what I just earned. That’s my first harvest. You can’t possibly mean for me to give away what I just received. I need to keep it, frame it, memorialize it–it might not come again!”

And that’s just it, isn’t it? There might not be enough. The worry consumes. We fret over the future we believe will be full of scarcity. We don’t trust that there will be enough. And so, we buy more, hold onto more, fill up our storehouses with more, eat more, and consume more, because you never know when it will run out.

This week, as you find your tables full of food and people, notice the Joy. Be Joy.

Notice the compassion. Notice the grace. Or better yet, be compassionate and full of grace.

Trust that there will Be Joy.

Trust that there will Be generous folks.

Trust that there will Be grace.

And trust that there will Be enough.

Be Thank Full.

[1] Clark, A., Hagler, D., and Larson, N., Never Pray Again: Lift your head, unfold your hands, and get to work (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2014), page 128.

[2] Ibid, page 130.

[3] Deuteronomy 26