A Thanksgiving Reflection from Bishop Chilton

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is “thank you,” it will be enough.
— Meister Eckhart

True joy is watching the sun rise and knowing who to thank. 
— Anonymous

On this Thanksgiving morning, I am reminded that a grateful spirit is a grace bestowed on us. It allows the Spirit to transform our self-understanding–our sense of who we are and what we are all about–and it takes us on a journey of gratitude from understanding ourselves as people entitled to what we have to understanding that all we have is a gift from a generous Giver.

Of course, it is true that gifts sometimes come in disguise, or come commingled with loss and pain, or hover just beyond the edge of our sight. But just because gifts may be hard to perceive does not mean that they are not present. A gift may not be the top thing on our pile, but it is there, waiting to be discovered. And so we dig down until the gift is revealed. Sometimes this takes awhile, and so we ask the Giver to give us patience and trust as we seek the gift that is there, waiting to be found.

We live our lives as recipients, as beneficiaries of divine love and goodness so immense that we sometimes have no words sufficient to express our gratitude. “Thank you, God” is heartfelt to be sure, but sometimes our gratitude wants bigger expression, greater depth. How can we find ways to express this deeper gratitude? As the psalmist has said, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?” (Psalm 116:12). As the Message, a version of the Bible that I enjoy, reads, “What can I give back to God for all the blessings God’s poured out on me?”

A few verses later in that psalm, we have the answer:

“I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord”. (Psalm 116:17, NRSV). Or, as the Message reads, “I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice and pray in the name of God.”

Thanksgiving is coupled with sacrifice, because expressing true gratitude through our actions will cost us something. In her wisdom, our faith community has established ways to bless and sanctify our sacrifices so that others may be blessed through them. God has not blessed us so that we can hoard and possess and cling. God has blessed us so that we may, in turn, bless others.

I wish you and those you love a Thanksgiving filled with true gratitude.

The Rt. Rev. Chilton R Knudsen, Assisting Bishop