Give Thanks Anyway
Beloved in Christ,
Gratitude is the fundamental spiritual posture for disciples of Jesus. It’s no accident that the central act of Christian worship is called Eucharist—thanksgiving. The goal of common prayer, practiced week by week, is to shape our hearts for perpetual Eucharist. We pray so that we can know deep down that "it is truly, right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere, to give thanks” to the God who creates, redeems, and makes us whole.
But Eucharistic gratitude is not cheap or naive. It is not cultivated by closing our eyes to the harsh realities of the world or our own lives. Eucharistic gratitude looks with clear, sober, and wide-awake eyes at the full depths of human brokenness and suffering. It accounts for the atrocities and injustices in which we have been complicit or by which we may have benefitted. It accounts for the fact that very often, things do not work out as we hope or imagine.
Eucharistic gratitude isn’t looking at our privileged lives with a sigh of relief that we aren’t worse off. Eucharistic gratitude finds its source in the assurance that God is found in the depths of the pain, injustice, and suffering that is always there.
And then, Eucharistic gratitude compels us to do what we can to repair what has been broken, to stand with those who, as Howard Thurman reminds us, stand with their backs against the wall. We aren’t grateful because the world is so good and life is so inevitably pleasant. We are grateful because God is so good, and God’s love is the only balm that can soothe all the painful gashes we cut into one another. The gratitude we cultivate demands solidarity with those who suffer, and compels us to join God in building a bigger, more loving future.
The holiday we celebrate this week is built on the myth of a nice story that, to whatever extent it may or may not have been true, turns its head from the genocidal conquest Europeans wrought on the Indigenous people of this continent.
As followers of Jesus, we can see that fully, lament and repent of it, and give thanks anyway. Because our gratitude is built on nothing less than God’s perfect answer to the horrendous evils of a fallen world—Jesus the Christ, in whom the full power of God’s love was pleased to dwell. Even as we will continue to stumble on our way forward, we know that we are carried along and sustained by God’s mighty power, which buoys the world along toward God’s perfect reign of peace.
For that great good news, and for the gift of each of you, I give God great thanks.
The Right Reverend Craig Loya