One of the dangers of church meetings is that sometimes we get drawn into complaining about this or that. You may know the scenario. We would like to do ‘x’ but we don’t have enough people, money, energy etc to do it. We often whinge about what we haven’t got. Yet I think our problems are more often caused by our lack of appreciation of the value of what we have been given and so not being truly thankful for it.
Sometimes even when we choose to give thanks, we do so in a way that is tokenistic and self-serving. We are, also, often more than capable of withdrawing that thankfulness as soon as something does not suit us. L.S. Lowry once said that he owed a debt of gratitude to the French Impressionist painter Adolphe Valette who had been his teacher in Manchester Art School. Sadly, later in life Lowry dismissed Valette’s influence on his art because he wanted to conjure the myth of his own uniqueness.
In his letters, as was the custom of the time, St Paul always begins what he has to say with thanksgiving. Yet Paul’s thanksgivings were often more elaborate and substantial than others at the time. Paul often gave thanks for the prayers and practical help the church he was writing to had given him in the past. Yet without fail Paul would always then go on to put their gifts and his own gifts in the context of the still greater gift of the knowledge of God’s love that has been made known to him and to the church through Jesus.
Who and what are you thankful for?
A famous psychiatrist once said that the mark of person’s mental health can be measured by the person ability or lack of ability to be thankful. I think for Christians thankfulness is even more fundamental than that. We only have the right relationship with God and other people when we recognise, with grateful thanks, that we build our churches and our lives on the loving sacrifice of others and, most especially, the gifts granted by our ever-generous God.