Tim Keller wrote, “There is nothing more thrilling than climbing up to some high point on a mountain and then turning around and viewing from there all the terrain you have traversed. Suddenly you see the relationships – you see the creek you crossed, the foothills and the town from which you journeyed. Your high vantage point gives you perspective, clarity and a sense of beauty.” Synod 2019 was such a mountain top experience, and I believe it is incumbent upon us to pause and say thank you.
Let me share with you what I am especially grateful for in the Lord. I give thanks for a Synod that was preceded by 168 hours of prayer plus all the corporate prayer gatherings that took place across New England in that same week. I give thanks for the gift of the extraordinary unity we share in our mission and values; that across the breadth of the Diocese we are a people of His Word, Spirit, Sacrament and Mission. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of a truly global church that is being mobilized and the global voice that is rising up for the Gospel in New England. I give thanks for missional priests and congregations from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, that seeds of the East African Revival are being strategically planted in New England. The Father has blessed us with great spiritual strength and wealth drawn from across the nations – very much including our Hispanic and Asian brothers and sisters. I give thanks that up and down New England, men and women, ordained and market-place leaders have ministries distinguished by sacrifice, entrepreneurialism, perseverance, creativity, faithfulness and love. I give thanks that together, in the leading and power of the Spirit, the Lord has set a very large hope in us for the re-evangelization of the North East.
And I pray that as we labor together in full partnership in the Gospel we will continue with the spiritual discipline of gratitude before God and for each other. The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7, emphasis mine). Gratitude is an essential guardian of the soul. When we abandon it, we lay ourselves open to attack. In the absence of a thankful heart we are prone to drawing away from the love and faithfulness of God. Paul, writing to the church in Rome, argued that the absence of gratitude creates an on-ramp to the slippery slope of doubt and fear. He wrote, “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21, emphasis mine). If ingratitude lays us open to confusion and doubt, gratitude positions us to take hold of God’s goodness, steadfast love, and faithfulness. Gratitude brings us into the truth that God is “on my side as my helper” (Psalm 118:7a).
Gratitude before God is truly for our benefit and not His. In my own prayer life, I have recently attempted to give thanks to God for at least 10 things before I bring anything else to His attention. I am so struck by the profound difference that this simple practice has made. My part is just to be honest about the impact of the good things in my life — great or small. As I compile my list, I find that two things happen. First, the list gets longer and longer, and second, my anxiety level decreases, while my faith and assurance in God’s goodness increases. In just this way, the author Melody Beattie can write, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity….” The practice of thankfulness before God is much more than proprietary politeness or “liturgical correctness.” Gratitude is the titanium of spiritual armor.
May you be reminded of all the goodness of God with a Happy Thanksgiving and a most blessed Advent Season.
In His great love,