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In her book “Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us,” Dr. Christine Pohl lists gratitude, truth-telling, promise-keeping and hospitality as practices essential to maintaining healthy communities. At our recent charge conference, our District Superintendent asked us to engage in some conversation around the practice of truth-telling in our congregations and how we might faithfully and fruitfully (and peacefully!) do more of it. Our leadership team for the coming year will be following up on that. As we look forward this month to the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to reflect on the practice of gratitude.

Throughout his letters, the apostle Paul exhorts the early church communities over and over again to put giving thanks to God at all times for everything in the name of Jesus at the very center of their lives. Paul says if we’re not thanking and praising God, then we must be thanking and praising something else. That something else usually turns out to be the familiar idols of self-sufficiency, power, wealth, and self-importance.

As Christians, our gratitude is rooted in continually reminding ourselves that God is God and we are not, not just one day a year but every day of the year. Congregations flourish when they regularly tell stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness and when they take the opportunity to express gratitude to God and to celebrate their redemption through the costly grace of the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. The only response we can give to such an extraordinary act is ordinary but continual gratitude for all aspects of our being. We give thanks as a group in worship each week, and we can make it a practice to give thanks daily as individuals in our prayers, at each meal, and by noticing and celebrating God at work in our interactions with each other.

I can’t help but notice God at work in all of you. I celebrate and give thanks for all the generous, kind, compassionate, and necessary things you do for each other, for this church, and for this community in Christ’s name. You continually pour yourselves out in so many ways in your missions and ministries, including the often unsung administrative and maintenance tasks. Your gratitude shines through in all of this! I give thanks to God for each of you, and I give thanks to you for the generosity and kindness you show me on a regular basis, and for the special things you did for Pastor Appreciation Month.

May God continue to bless us as we labor in his vineyards, and may we always be grateful for his goodness and faithfulness.

In Christ,

Pastor Jane