1 Chronicles 29:10-14
“Gratitude follows grace like thunder follows lightening.” This is famous quote by renowned theologian Karl Barth. The idea is simple, when we experience grace from God or through others the natural response is gratitude or thankfulness.
But what does it mean to be thankful? In Christianity there is a different understanding than there is in the secular world. The art of gratitude is a practice of being thankful with a willingness to show appreciation and return kindness to others. Christian gratitude goes one step further and acknowledges the true power of thankfulness and gratitude, that it has the power to produce and spread joy. Today, we the leadership of Trinity has decided to dedicate this Sunday to expressing and showing our gratitude and thankfulness to all of you. Ultimately we want to spread a little joy!
The original idea for today came from the stewardship committee. We were overwhelmed by the amazing responses from you all during our stewardship drive last year. So many of you pledged your time and talent, some of you got involved in things for the first time, others committed to continued service. Overall the majority of the church pledged something. We know that you all lead very busy lives and church is what you do on your free time. For one Sunday we wanted to acknowledge the amazing work you all do and raise awareness to the awesome work we do as a whole church.
A couple of weeks ago we began getting ready for today by creating notecards of every ministry we could think of in the church and then adding the names of who participates in those ministries. I was shocked when I saw the stack of cards. There are over 30 ministries happening in this church and I want to take a moment and let that sink in. For a church any size this is incredible let alone a smaller church with an average Sunday attendance of 50. We truly live into being the hands and feet of Jesus to our church family and to the community of Ware.
For so long, you all have been faithful and provided others with service and love but I also know that thankfulness comes in many forms and today while we want to recognize all of you in thanksgiving for our church family I also want to look at thanksgiving as a spiritual practice. Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks to God for all things in our life. Acknowledging the good and surrendering the bad but there is another side of thanksgiving and it may be the most unrecognized form because it happens when we are struggling.
In Hebrew, the verb rendered in most English translations as “to thank” (yadah) can also mean “to confess. “ For example, Ezra 10:1 says, “Ezra prayed and made confession.” For the biblical authors, confession actually represents an expression of gratitude and thanks. For many of us, particularly those of us who are struggling through troubling times, we often find it difficult to bring ourselves to thank God for anything.
Yet, in the very act of confessing to God, of acknowledging God’s presence in our life even in difficult periods, we are giving thanks to the Lord.
One of the things that I think is important for us to do is look at the ways we express our thankfulness and gratitude to others as well as to God. That is why today we are verbally thanking all of you for your many talents, treasures, and time you spend at Trinity and representing Trinity in our community. But through this process of examination we have also decided to highlight our gratitude towards God during our service. As you may have noticed our first reading from today has some familiar words, especially for those of you who are familiar with Rite I.
Our reading from first Chronicles is a portion of David’s Prayer in which he praises God for all God has done for the people of Israel but also asks the congregation to give what they can to help construct the temple. The last verse we heard today is, “All things come of you, and of your own have we given you.” Meaning that all of the things we have, all of the good things we cherish and reserve for ourselves are God’s to begin with and so when we make an offering to the Lord we do so with grateful hearts and with the knowledge that All things come from God, including the gift we are giving back to God. With that in mind I hope you will join me in our new tradition of saying this phrase with me after the plates are presented during the offering. “All things come of thee O lord, and of thine own have we given thee”
This is the fundamental understanding of Christian stewardship because it isn’t about how much of your money you give to the church. Rather, Christian stewardship involves the acknowledgment that everything we have, from the money in our pockets to the breath in our lungs, has been given to us by God for our time on earth. The question Christian stewardship should provoke is what is the most faithful and just use of our time, our talents, and our treasure? This is why at its core questions of stewardship are about Spirituality because they remind us that everything is connected.
Today, we want to honor that connection that you have made. Everyone here, all of you, give to this church in way one or another. Today we setting aside time to lift up that sacrifice and commitment and take this as our opportunity to officially say, “Thank you. From the leadership of Trinity to you, thank you for all that you do. We are better for having you in our midst and we are blessed by your presence.”