A little over a year ago, our vestry and I did an exercise exploring and identifying what we considered to be "Gospel Values." During this exercise, we came up with words such as, joy, community, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love--you get the point. One of the Gospel Values that we talked about is gratitude. While I find being thankful both natural and important, I struggle with when and how to show gratitude. Just this past Sunday, St. James's Choir sang John Rutter's Requiem. It was beautiful, it was moving and it was appreciated by all who attended. Both during the announcements and at the end of the service, the parish thanked Jason, the choir, and the visiting musicians with a very loud round of applause. My immediate response to this was twofold, one, I too appreciated the music while at the same time thinking for the most part, I don't really like clapping in a liturgical setting.
Here is the problem. How do we express gratitude and thankfulness to the many people who do so much to improve our lives and the lives of others? How do you tell your secretary that you couldn't do your job without him or her? How do you tell your spouse how much better your life is because of them? How do you thank your parents for all they did for you? How do you thank people for their generosity in supporting the church? How do you thank a volunteer for their hard and selfless work, and how do you express to a choir that they have lifted your spirits on any given Sunday morning? The answer is you just do. Say thank you whenever you get the chance. Tell people how you feel. Try to reciprocate through your own acts of generosity.
Jesus asked the one leper who returned to express thanks, "Were there not nine others?" I have never heard this as Jesus chastising those who did not return in gratitude but as a sadness that they were not fully aware of what had been done for them. Because if they had been fully aware the only possible response would have been, "Thank you."
While our daily expressions of gratitude for those in our lives is important both personally and relationally, it is the gratitude we show toward God that I think speaks the loudest. Author Anne Lamont writes that the most important prayer you can ever pray, even if you pray nothing else, is the simple "thank you." Thank you, thank you, thank you. The first thought we should have when we wake and the last just before we go to sleep. No matter how lousy the day may have been, I can guarantee you that somebody has done something for you, whether you know it or not, and that God certainly has.
So how do we express our gratitude? We just do--thank you.
The Rev. Bob Hooper is the rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church. He blogs for St. James’s most Tuesday, reflecting on the community, parish life and (being Rector) anything else he likes.