This is Thanksgiving week, so it is an appropriate time to reflect on the pervasiveness of the life of gratitude that the gospel suggests. So, this week we turn to that familiar passage from Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Here again, we find that gratitude and joy are woven together and that it is sometimes hard to tell one from the other. But it does reveal that our consideration of a life of gratitude should be exuberant, marked by the joy of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
What can we sing with a light heart today? What prayers can we offer that might tap into the sense of interconnectedness and belonging? How can we celebrate the community that we are and the community that we are becoming? Let there be space for saying thank you to one another and to God. Let the passing of the peace include time to find someone each would like to thank for their words or deeds or presence. This could be a guided prayer time or simply an open sharing time. Let the buzz of conversation reflect the joy of the fellowship around us.
This is not to say, even here on the threshold of Thanksgiving, that there isn’t room for grief or sadness. Suffering strikes even during the holiday season. Some might be dreading gathering with family, knowing there is pain there. Offer compassion as you sing and as you pray. Remind people that there is a community of faith that surrounds them with caring and gratitude and peace. Pray for contentment in the midst of difficult circumstances. We don’t ask to accept the brokenness or endure abuse, but note that we see beyond the pain of the moment to a wholeness that is offered. We give thanks for the promises of God, even when we can’t feel them at the moment.
Send the congregation out to embrace the world that surrounds them with gratitude and joy; see what transformation might begin around us and within us. In everything, give thanks.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.