I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:3-6
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
― Thomas Merton
Over the past weeks, as I’ve had my head down in my studies, I’ve come to an even deeper understanding of how blessed I am to be a part of this congregation. There’s a danger in serving—in our efforts to be there for others, we sometimes may lose sight of the way others are there for us. But when we are vulnerable, and tired, and can’t put two thoughts together—in those times we may see just what kind of community we belong to. And this community is a supportive community. And a loving community. And a kind community.
Flying off to class, I’ve been able to see a little of somewhere else, and it’s always so good to come home, not so much because here is better than there (although it may be—it’s Idaho, after all), but because the people I care for, and who care for me, are here. I come home, and there’s a stack of cards wishing Tatia and me a happy anniversary, there’s the ready assurance that we’ve been prayed for, and there’s the encouragement and the compassion.
I want to thank you all for your support, and your continuing prayers. It’s truly a blessing to be a part of this family, and you all deserve to be recognized for that. But I also want to do what Paul does. I want to thank God. As Merton notes in the quote above, for my gratitude to be well placed, it needs to see the presence of God in the grace and love you offer. When we love unselfishly, we are displaying God’s love. When we offer support, it is God’s grace that we share. Paul sees this, too. He sees the way that God is moving in the Philippian church, and it is a source of joy and confidence. He cannot help but be grateful.
Being grateful doesn’t mean we don’t see the pain and the tribulation in the world. Those things are certainly there. But being grateful means that we see more than just the trials. We see the goodness, the love, and the grace. We see the light of Christ shining in the faces of our brothers and sisters. We see a little bit of the Kingdom in the way a door is opened, the way a hand is held, the way a prayer is offered. We see, as Merton saw, that every breath is a gift, and every moment a grace. And we see it so readily in the family of faith. It just depends on what we’re looking for.
So, it’s what I’ve been seeing lately. We’re not a perfect group. We’ve got some troubles, and we don’t do it right all the time. I mess up right along with everyone—so we’re all in good company. But even when we mess up, even when we’re tired and hard-pressed, we still love each other. It’s what God has made of us—a community that can love perfectly because our imperfect love is made perfect by God’s love in us. And when we love that perfect, Godly love, then I don’t suppose we could do anything but thank God when we remember each other. So, I thank God when I think of you, and I thank you, too.
See you Sunday! John