Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, I realize that Thanksgiving Day has passed and that we’re on the verge of Advent. But before we enter one of my favorites seasons of the year, I’d like to add one further thought related to Thanksgiving.
This week we’ve been focusing on Ephesians 5:20, which urges us to be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As we read this verse, it’s natural for us to hear it as speaking to each one of us individually. Indeed, I should be giving thanks God in my personal prayers and so should you.
But the grammar and context of verse 20 encourage us to think corporately as well. The plural Greek participle translated as “giving thanks” could refer to what a group of individuals do when they are on their own, or to what a group does when acting together. The context of this verse supports the second option. In the previous verse, we are to be “speaking to one another” in the language of worship (Ephesians 5:19). In the following verse, we are to “submit to one another” (Ephesians 5:21). Verse 20 falls between these two commands, both of which only make sense when addressed to a group of people experiencing fellowship with each other.
So, though I would surely not discourage private prayers of thanksgiving – indeed, in the past few days I have encouraged you to thank God on your own – I do want to underscore the value of shared gratitude. When I hear what you’re thankful for, not only can I join you in your gratitude, but also I am reminded of gifts for which I also am thankful and may not have remembered until I heard from you.
Let me share a couple examples of what I mean. When I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, one of my favorite events in the year was our Thanksgiving Eve worship service. My favorite part of this service was an “open-mike” time when people in the congregation would share publicly something for which they were thankful. When my daughter was four, she spoke up and said, “I’m thankful for paper.” Everybody laughed, which hurt her feelings. I remember thinking at the time, “My goodness. I have never before realized how thankful I actually am for paper.” On another occasion, a man who had recently lost his wife to cancer shared. “I’m thankful for Margaret, for her life with us and her life in Heaven. And I’m so thankful for the love and support of this church during this past year.” Those of us who had shared with this man in his grief were now able to share also in his thanks, and to realize that we too were grateful for our church.
Even though Thanksgiving Day is over, you still have time to grab a few minutes with someone, perhaps a friend or family member, and share your thanks together. Your hearts will be warmed and God will be glorified.
Something to Think About:
Can you remember a time when someone’s expression of thanks to God stirred up new gratitude in you?
Do you have a context in which you regularly share your gratitude with others?
Why do you think we are sometimes reticent to share with others about the things for which we are grateful to God?
Something to Do:
If you haven’t done so already this week, find at least one other person with whom to share your thanks.
Gracious God, how good it is to give thanks to you, to remember your goodness, to celebrate your gifts. It’s good to do this when I’m alone. And it’s good to do this with others. Thank you for the times my own gratitude has been enhanced as I’ve shared in the gratitude of others.
Help me, Lord, to build into my life the practice of shared gratitude. May I let others know how you have blessed me, even as I learn how you have blessed them. All for your glory! Amen.