What a pleasure it was to take part in the community thanksgiving service, and to preach a sermon in the very same roman catholic church and school where I attended as a child! I was surprised they let me in the door, given that I am such a shining of example of what happens when a good catholic education goes so terribly wrong.
I had fun doing it, and enjoyed giving some thought to “gratitude” as a unifying concept for Christians of many different denominations. The letter to Colossians helped me get there:
As God’s chosen ones, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…Forgive each other…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
I think this captures what William Temple calls the “sweetness of life” that comes from living as a faithful Christian. When gratitude is at the heart of it, these great songs pour out of us, as naturally as the exhalation of breath.
The holiday of Thanksgiving takes a good first step: we recognize the “things” we have and we give thanks for them. It’s great, but it’s just a shade transactional: God gives, and we pay with thanks.
I prefer to think of Gratitude as a state of being, as a formative way of living our lives. And it’s an outward-facing orientation: we are being sent out by the very gratitude that warms us. When the “word of Christ dwells in us richly,” we can’t help but live for others and we can’t help singing songs about it.
So let’s enjoy our many blessings and give thanks for them. But remember too that gratitude is much more than just a response: gratitude is a deeply holy way of connecting to God.