Thankfulness: For the Ordinary and Extraordinary
Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth.
Gratitude follows grace like thunder the lightening.
Grace evokes gratitude like the voice its echo. – Karl Barth
I give thanks to God for all the ordinary and extraordinary
wonders of life and the past year.
We normally focus on the extraordinary.
We notice the amazing wonder of a new grandchild simply breathing as we hold them in our arms. But we rarely notice the steady rising and falling of our own breathing unless we are puffing after exerting ourselves. I invite you to notice the ordinary and extraordinary and give thanks.
As we journey into this Thanksgiving holiday, notice the ordinary. It is all a gift of grace. Notice the wonder of simply waking up in the morning, eating breakfast, having a place to work, co-workers to talk to, places to invest your life’s energy, friends to connect to and music or reading to enjoy. Notice the amazing gift of laughter in your life. Even the gift of tears are a wonder. It is all an extraordinary gift from God.
Notice the gift of your community. We notice it when firemen show up, like they did recently at Shalom Hill Farm from four nearby communities to do their extraordinarily important work of walking into a crisis and stopping the fire. Notice all the ordinary gifts in your community like teachers to teach our children and us, medical people to attend to us in our illness and to prevent sickness, too. Notice the gift of the folks who prepare and sell us food in grocery stores and restaurants. Notice the police keeping order and all the people who keep things from needing the intervention of law enforcement and the courts. Every day there are amazing things happening as God uses our hands to care for community. Notice the friends drinking coffee, laughing, getting choked up as God uses people to weave together community. It is a miracle of grace.
Notice the gift of the ordinary in your church. We often lift up the leaders who are doing innovative things, starting mission churches or leading in the midst of crisis and crucial transitions. Those gifts are amazing grace. Yet, notice all the faithful people, pastors and staff loving in Jesus name, proclaiming the good news of God’s grace, doing the normal work of a community of faith. They are all equally priceless gifts from God. Notice your janitor. Notice your council leaders. Notice your altar guild and ushers. Notice the people who are serving out their faith as ministers in their work places, families, neighborhoods and as they show hospitality to strangers. While the extraordinary generosity of a large bequest catches your eye, notice the steady generosity of self and money from so many that makes most of our congregations go. Notice the witness and life of communities of faith large and small and give thanks for the presence and work of God’s Holy Spirit inside and beyond communities of faith.
God’s grace comes in ordinary ways like the ongoing creation and sustaining of life.
God’s grace comes in extraordinary ways like we know in Christ Jesus being born, his life and death and resurrection.
In the days ahead, may God slow us down enough to notice the gifts of grace that surround us in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of our lives. Remember Paul’s exhortation to the church at Colossi.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3
+Pr. Jon V. Anderson
Bishop, Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA