We have one opportunity every 365 days to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. A year will pass before the situation presents itself again. However, Christ-followers are called to practice thanksgiving 365 days of the year. Indeed, we are reminded by Paul in Philippians 4:4 to “rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice.” In other words, we are to approach every day in a spirit of thanksgiving.
This is not a philosophy developed in an abstract environment. Rather it is a theology born out of the experience of offering thanksgiving 365 days a year. It is worth noting that thanksgiving and an easy life do not always go hand in hand. Though we are thankful when all is going well, thanksgiving can also be offered in times of difficulty, hardship, and challenges.
For what was Paul thankful? Throughout his epistle to the Philippians, Paul gives us a litany of several reasons for his thankfulness.
Paul was thankful for Jesus Christ, through whom he could “do all things.” (Philippians 4:13)
He was grateful for whatever situation in which he found himself. “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.” (Philippians 4:11b-12)
He was full of gratitude for the Philippian Christians and their partnership in ministry with him. (Philippians 1:3-5)
Yes, in all things Paul was thankful. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)
Like Paul, you and I have many reasons to be grateful. I am thankful for:
the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit . . . Creator, Savior and Sustainer who provides relationship, redemption and guidance;
each new day of life;
my amazing husband Lee, daughter and son-in-law, son, granddaughters, mother, siblings and their spouses, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles and friends;
my recent reassignment to the Holston and North Alabama Conferences;
the remarkable extended and appointive cabinet leaders with whom I serve;
the clergy and laity serving alongside me, making a positive difference in their churches and communities;
God’s call on my life to lead in The United Methodist Church during this time in history;
the pain as well as joy that accompanies ministry;
the deep sadness I feel as some clergy and churches disaffiliate;
my joy in the majority of our clergy and churches continuing on the journey together in the United Methodist Church;
the beauty of God’s creation;
and so much more.
I invite you to take some time this Thanksgiving week to write a summary of your reasons for rejoicing in the Lord, always. Then, share them with at least one other person as an expression of your gratitude for God and God’s work in your life.
Dr. Robert Emmons is the leading researcher on the benefits of nurturing a lifestyle of thanksgiving through a gratitude journal or other means. His research shows that persons who consistently practice gratitude report lowered blood pressure, better sleep quality, less loneliness and many other positive physical, psychological and social outcomes. Paul’s sage wisdom to offer gratitude to God has not only spiritual, but also physical, emotional, psychological and social benefits.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice. In little and in plenty . . . in the worst and the best of times . . . in sorrowful and joyful moments . . . in everything give thanks to God, always.
This is where thanksgiving begins and ends. Not only once every 365 days, but every day of the year. Not only in the high moments - but also in the challenges of life. Rejoice. In the Lord. Always.
It is a joy to serve as your bishop.
Holston and North Alabama Conferences