On faith: Thanks be to God
By: Pastor John Dietz, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lake County News Chronicle
With Thanksgiving Day behind us, you just might have endured some awkward family moments recently. There were those uncomfortable family photos, the longer-than-usual table grace (especially if there’s not usually any table grace), and that activity where you go around the table and “say what you’re thankful for.” And depending on their age, maturity, personal circumstances and perspectives, we found out that the people we know and love have a lot of different things to be thankful for. But usually, on the top of the list are health and home, food, friends and family.
No surprise there. It would seem shallow, after all, to be especially grateful for an electronic device, or household appliance, a piece of clothing, or a toy when we gather once a year to “say what we’re thankful for.” Considering we usually do this among family and friends, in relatively good health and in a home full of food, it only makes sense to be thankful for health and home, food, friends and family. Thanks be to God.
And yet, the very next day we are off to the stores. We’re buying electronics, appliances, clothing and toys. Some of them are even for other people. But with these sale prices, we’re not just Christmas shopping, we’re taking advantage of the deals and buying things we “need.”
While they may be more crowded than usual, the stores actually feel more normal than what we just experienced yesterday. I don’t sit around with my in-laws and share a huge meal along with my personal “gratefulness inventory” every day, but at least every other day I do go to the store and buy something. I am more used to hearing a stranger say, “Swipe your card, press OK or credit, and then sign your name” than I am hearing someone who loves me ask me to “say what you’re thankful for.”
And that’s why we gather in these church buildings on Sundays. I need to be invited to give thanks more than just once a year. I need to enter a public building where there is nothing to scan, swipe, and sign. I need to come together with people who know and love me.
But I really need to meet again - and sometimes it seems like I need to meet for the very first time - the God who knows and loves me. I need to meet the God who gathers me in when I have wandered off into the consumerism of Black Friday or the brokenness of Good Friday. I need to meet the God who speaks the promise of abundant and everlasting life when all I seem to hear from within and without is shortage, limits, death. I need to meet the God who comes down to feed me with the holy meal of forgiveness and grace, and who sends me out into this world with a purpose bigger than buying more things.
So on Thursday I gathered with family, for whom I am thankful. Today I went to the store and I bought some really cheap stuff. But on Sunday, I’m going to a church to gather with other people who need to meet God in the community of faith, in the scriptures read and preached, prayed and sung. I’m going to meet God in the bread and wine of Christ’s gracious presence. I’m going to meet God where God has promised to meet me - in my need, in my gratitude, in my brokenness, and in my thanksgiving. Thanks be to God.