1 Chronicles 16:8
LISTEN TO: Telly Leung and cast of the Broadway revival of Godspell, singing "All Good Gifts"
One of my most memorable Thanksgiving dinners took place in a dingy church basement. There were about 40 of us. Some of the group were youth and their pastor from an upstate church. The rest of the group were recovering addicts and alcoholics who were struggling to stay clean during the stress of the holiday. I was an associate pastor, directing this recovery program and other services to the poor and homeless. We were preparing a grand meal for the homeless on Thanksgiving Day. But before we plowed into our delicious meal of turkey and the fixings, we formed a gratitude circle.
One by one, members of the recovery program spoke. Someone was grateful that they were alive, sitting in that circle and not out in the cold. Another person was grateful that she no longer sold her body for crack. Someone was clean and sober for three days, and for the hot meal waiting. Someone, who had no family, was grateful for the family sitting around that circle, a family that God provided. An HIV positive woman gave thanks for finally having a room she could call her own. Nearly everyone spoke of their gratitude to God, for not giving up on them, despite committing actions that were despicable, ungodly, criminal. They thanked God for the Church providing them a place to get better, and for the kids who came to be with them. One recovery leader spoke of us needing to pray constantly for "gratitude in attitude." With gratitude we get better. We can heal. We stay connected to our divine source. Without gratitude our spirits shrivel and our souls become as hard as a pit. We then joined hands and prayed for each other and other sick and suffering people. We prayed for gratitude.
Next week, wherever you may be on Thanksgiving Day, remember, however big or small, you are part of a gratitude circle. Give thanks for each person around your table and for those who couldn't make it because of COVID. Give thanks for the food in front of you-and pray for those who struggle to feed their families. Give thanks for the shower you were able to take. For the breath you just took. For your beating heart. Give thanks for Jesus, who reminds us every day of God's great love. Remember what Meister Eckhart, German theologian, once said: "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice."
PRAY: "Lord, thank you."