For This I Am Thankful
“For This I Am Thankful” Psalm 100, Deut. 26:1-11
My grandmother used to say: “If you cast your bread upon the water, it will come back as bread pudding.” Meaning that generosity begets generosity, and that grateful delight is intertwined with giving.
I remember going into Mr. Rigney’s shoe repair shop when I was a little girl. I overheard him excitedly telling my father about his discovery that if he gave more money to the church of which we were both members, then he seemed to make more money in his business. I was never sure if he thought of it as a cause and effect formula or not, but I did sense that Mr. Rigney was genuinely grateful to God for his good fortune. There was a connection between his gratitude and his generosity.
Ed Bacon writes about that connection: “All of the remarkably generous, generative, affluent people I have ever known were profoundly grateful.” He writes: “Ingratitude is arguably the most destructive character trait of all. It destroys relationships and it destroys the human soul… Ingratitude ignores the fact that each one of us is a sea into which some confluence of springs, rivulets, and rivers have flowed. The only way we could have become who we are is through the flow into our lives of the energy of the Beloved and the Beloved’s energy in other persons. Ingratitude says, ‘Everything I have I earned by my own hands; all of it came to me as a result of my own work.’ The Habit of Generosity targets the lie of ingratitude.”
Today in our worship service and Thanksgiving Feast we bring together gratitude, Thanksgiving, and generosity. For what are you thankful? I invite you to take a few minutes to think about at least three things for which you are grateful. You may write them down on the index card you were given this morning, or just hold them in your mind. Take a few minutes to add to your gratitude list. For what are you thankful? (The congregation called out its answers here.) I invite you to put your index card up at home where you can see it, on the fridge or on your computer, to remind you to cultivate the habit of gratitude. Our generosity grows out of the soil of gratitude.
I’d like to share a gratitude list I wrote a few years ago; some of you have read it before. Here is my gratitude list, for this I am thankful:
For the gift of a day, it could be any day, but one day in what the poet Mary Oliver calls this “one wild and precious life,” for this day I am thankful. Come with me into this day:
• For the way the early morning fog hangs over the water, back lit by the rising sun in a way that makes it seem like more than a new day, but rather the first day at the beginning of time when the mysterious world was “silently sung” into being...for this I am thankful.
• For the way that flour, yeast, salt, and water come together in my hands, kneaded into a shape that is transformed by the alchemical heat of the oven into our daily bread, the smell of the freshly baked loaf saturating the house... for this I am thankful.
• As the day unfolds it reveals its beauty: the sunflower, the rose, the arrangement on the communion table, the rose-breasted grosbeak, the mountains, the rain that “animates the river,” the flock of swallows who spiral, bank, and dive across the November sky as if they are of one mind...for all of this I am thankful.
• As the day grows bright in the world, to engage in meaningful work, and to witness many who are giving, bringing, praying, willing justice into being...for this I am thankful.
• For those who people this day with faith and imagination, who bring poetic clarity and sweetness to our world, whose inspiration unleashes floods of mercy from our hearts...for these I am thankful.
• For those who are what one poet calls “connoisseurs of the abyss” who stagger back from the edge of loss and despair accompanied by a “crowd of sorrows,” (Rumi) and yet still raise their voices and shout “Alleluia!” and “Blessed Be!” in steady proclamation...for these I am thankful.
• As night draws nigh, to view my child in unguarded sleep, to see sleep leach away all of that teen angst until all that is left is her little face sculpted by tenderness...for this I am thankful.
• And at the close of day with all of its fits and starts, sleeping under a sky where the stars drift like dandelion fluff, moonlight flooding my room like a limitless grace, dreaming of beauty and joy, my heart easing to the lullaby of the sacred presence, I sense God in that “close and holy darkness” (Dylan Thomas)...for this I am thankful. AMEN.