Yesterday, we celebrated Gratitude Sunday. It was an opportunity to thank folks who have volunteered their time heading up committees, teaching Sunday school, and leading Children’s Worship. We thanked Jake Athyal, our Youth Minister, who has made a difference in the lives of our youth, and we thanked Paul Shoaf Kozak, our Intern, for being our companion in worship and giving us fresh perspectives on the world and some of the most vulnerable in our midst.
It was the official end of our program year. But more than that, it was an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for what we have been as a community of faith, the people of God here at Epiphany. There are not many places left in our culture where you can find a caring, loving community. There are very few places where you can imbue your children and grandchildren with core values that will sustain them throughout their lives and equip them to be joy-filled, caring human beings. There are very few places where people are cared for when they are ill or grieving the loss of a loved one. There are many aspects of our common life here at Epiphany and all of them are grounded in our worship, our coming together week after week to be fed in the Eucharist, to give thanks to God for all the blessings of this life, and to ask for courage and strength to meet the challenges of daily living. Prayer and reflection, reading the Holy Scriptures and applying them to our particular life situation helps us to do the work that God has given us to do.
And then there is gratitude. Research has proven that people who live their lives with gratitude live longer and are happier. People who are ill recover more quickly. Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that gratitude has two key components, which he describes in a Greater Good essay, “Why Gratitude Is Good.” “First,” he writes, “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.” (greatergood.berkley.edu)
One of my favorite quotes on gratitude is by Albert Schweitzer: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” I know that I have experienced that spark from my spouse, our amazing staff with whom I have the privilege to work, and so many of you who bring such faith, commitment, and joy to everything you do. Saying “thank you” or showing our gratitude builds community and strengthens the bonds between us. It helps us look at our lives in a positive way and helps us engage the world differently.
There are many, many references in the Bible about giving thanks. Here is one from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” For me that is what Gratitude Sunday is all about. Thanking each other, even for the little things, is so important. I give thanks to God for all of you!