I was asked to write an article on the topic of gratitude and had it basically worked out in my mind by the time I went to Vespers last Thursday. Lo and behold, the sermon was almost exactly what I was planning to write! I decided that since Vespers was not televised last week I would go ahead and write more or less what I had planned with a little help from the sermon.
The scripture was I Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul tells the early Christians to “be thankful in all circumstances.” The preacher went on to clarify that Paul did not say FOR all circumstances, but rather IN all circumstances. I can relate. There are many circumstances for which I am not thankful: the pandemic comes to mind, or the Thunder not having a chance at a winning season. But we can be thankful IN those circumstances. For instance, the pandemic has given us an opportunity for creative communication and for Thunder fans to watch on a game-by-game basis the progress of these very young players.
It has been my practice for several years to write down five things for which I am grateful each evening before I go to bed. Sometimes these are really significant events–like the Thunder winning the Lakers game. Other times, they are small observances like catching a few birds splashing in a puddle of water in the median while waiting for a light to change. During the sermon, the preacher listed a variety of things for which he has been grateful. I will do the same in the hope that some of these things may encourage an attitude of gratitude in you.
I am grateful for sports. My teams are the Detroit Tigers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Michigan football, Duke basketball, OU softball, and OKC Thunder. But it isn’t only the entertainment–and sometimes frustration–that I get from following these teams, it is the opportunity it gives me to share the experience with others, like Betty Harding who is a major sports fan. Or to continue to have a nearly 50-year friendship with a man from Ann Arbor, Michigan. When I served the church there, Bobby was in junior high and the oldest of five boys in a blended family. I learned that to have a relationship with those guys, I was first going to have to have a relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan football. I was hooked. I became a sports fan, and Bobby and his brothers became active in the youth program.
I am thankful for my cat and for Bill Zumwalt who cares for her when I am away. I am thankful for my sisters and for the trips that we have taken together for the past 20 years. I am thankful for the staff here at Epworth and that Taylor, Dernard, and Monica always remember that I want V-8 and iced water. I am thankful for the Upper Room and for the Religious Life committee that provides it. I am thankful for Aldi’s. I am thankful for music: opera, country-western, show tunes, sacred music, and for Ginger and Wes who make our choir a joy. There are many other things for which I am grateful, but you get the picture. Try your own list. Hopefully, it will make Thanks-giving even more meaningful.
The preacher closed his sermon with the child’s prayer that most of us prayed when we were young: “Thank you for the world so sweet. Thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you, God, for everything.” This simple prayer is profound, and we would do well to pray it on a regular basis as we thank God in all circumstances.