Some years ago the phone rang in the parish office where I was Rector. A woman, who was not an Episcopalian called out of the blue, asking where to find “in everything give thanks” in the Bible. “St. Paul” I said, “but I’m not sure where.” I was busy but offered to look it up on-line but my computer suddenly froze and I had to use a concordance. I repressed such grumpy thoughts as “Why don’t you call your own church.” Many references to “thanks” later, but not the one she wanted, I gave up. (Back to Bible school for me!) Almost as soon as we hung up the computer unfroze and I found the reference she was looking for: 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
She had called our parish at random and as I worked through the concordance we spoke of whether St. Paul meant that we should give thanks “in all circumstances” or “for and in all the things that surround us.” The original means the first but we agreed that Christians should also give thanks in the second sense as well. We spoke of Francis, of Mother Teresa, and of other simple, joyful saints of God, whose lives were filled with actions as well as words. When we finished our conversation she said “You don’t know how much you have touched my life. May I call again?” I realized the talk had been good for me as well. She never did call back, but at some level it was not a random event.
So how do you go about giving thanks to God in the things of the world?
First, be appreciative. Take the time to ponder the marvels of God’s many works. Don’t rush through life blind to everything except what’s next for your own agenda.
Second, be responsible. Creation is beautiful and should be handled with respect and care. Thoughtless exploitation and pollution caused by laziness or greed are sins against God and we should not practice, profit by or tolerate them. Global stewardship is needed.
Third, be thankful. Consciously thank God for the world which surrounds us and even more, give thanks for that which has been put into your own care. The property, wealth and skills that you call your own are all gifts. Sure you may work hard, but it is God who provides the material, the workplace and the skill.
Fourth, be grateful. Gratitude is thanksgiving turned into a principle of life. Gratitude is not so much a passive feeling as an active response. You cannot be grateful about the gifts God has given you if you are selfish and unwilling to share. Sharing, on the other hand, is a source of joy. This is true from the child’s playground to the adult’s priorities.
“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18)