In the spirit of yesterday’s holiday, I am deeply aware of the importance of thanksgiving not only as the theme of the favorite national holiday but as an integral part of the Christian life. After all our main act of worship, the Eucharist, simply means thanksgiving: thanksgiving for all God has done for us and especially in and through his Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible and Prayer book offer many resources for giving thanks to God, which is one of the four basic forms of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication – ACTS). I happen to love Psalm 136, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever.” It thanks God for the creation; for God’s many gracious acts to Israel; for our daily food and much more. But, what is really helpful is to use the formula of the psalm to add in our own personal thanksgivings. The same can be done with resources like the General Thanksgiving (BCP page 101) and the Litany of Thanksgiving (BCP page 836). Giving thanks to God on a regular basis keeps a certain perspective on life. It is easy to become distracted by adversity, ill health, economic or work pressures, deaths of loved ones, family conflict and so much more. While each of these issues may be real and challenging nevertheless they do not represent the total picture of our lives.
I have been reflecting on the death recently of my elder sister, Jenifer, and especially with relation to the Thanksgiving holiday. Where is my thanksgiving in light of her death? The more I thought about it the more I realized I had much to be thankful for. Obviously, I am thankful for her life, her love, for many happy times and vacations shared together, for her friendly sisterly support, for our regular communications (weekly phone calls) and much more. But, also I realized I am thankful that I had quality time with her in the week before she died; for her realistic approach to her imminent death (she discussed her funeral hymns and other details and thought of things she would like to give to her nieces and nephews); for the fact that she died peacefully surrounded by my brothers and other sister; and for her funeral, which was everything a Christian funeral should be, that is, a mixture of tears and Alleluias! So alongside my sadness and loss, I “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever.” Try and make this holiday season a time to be truly thankful.