Patchwork of Gratitude
Third Sunday after Pentecost
©2021 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones
Once again, in this second of our SNAIL mini-series
that Nourish and Anchor our Intentional Living)
we’ve laid aside the Revised Common Lectionary
in favour of using texts that bring biblical insight
into conversation with each of our spiritual practices.
This week, in keeping with our patchwork theme,
a number of different scriptures were chosen by
last’ week’s Midrash gathering,
to piece together this worship from beginning to end;
you’ve already heard one of the favourites,
Psalm 100 – Make a joyful noise, all the earth!
which opened worship.
There are LOTS of scriptural encouragements
to practice gratitude, in many ways,
and in all seasons and circumstances.
What we’ll do now is piece together short
scripture passages with clips from a conversation
I had earlier this week with three of our VAMS.
I’m doing it this way, because practicing gratitude
is as unique as an individual fingerprint.
We all do it differently; there is no one size fits all.
Scripture and these women mirror that.
I’m going to begin with snapshot of Jesus,
from the Gospels. I’m reading Mark,
but Matthew and Luke share similar images
Mark says, “In the early,early morning,
while it was still dark, got up, left the house,
and went to a solitary place to pray.”
The psalmists too talk of morning
as that thin place when God and humanity meet in prayer:
Psalm 59 says “I will sing or your strength, and proclaim your
steadfast love in the morning.”
Wendy Evans has found what Jesus obviously knew;
starting the day connecting as creature to creation
and our Creator turns the world in a whole new, hopeful way.
Psalm 118 was the top pick of the Midrash gathering,
starts with an explosion of gratefulness,
“Give thanks to the Holy One for he is good.
Her faithfulness endures forever.
Let Israel join in and say it,
Let the descendants of Aaron,
let all the children of earth say it,
God’s faithful love endures through all things, forever!”
But that gratefulness emerges from grief..
the psalmist talks of war, disease, corruption,
ecological devastation, faithlessness, you name,
and yet, she sings with this
phoenix like brilliance
of the saving help of God in such times of trial..
Saying “God has been in every generation
our saving help, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day God has made we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Even the days that on the face of them, seem empty, as Wendy says:
It is innate…. we’re made for awe, wonder, grief and gratitude.
But it does take practice, it takes guides, sometimes help, and intention. I asked these women
about other practices they’ve introduced into their and their families’ lives that help them to keep their gratitude muscles toned.
Wendy’s evening practice with the family of highs and lows, of naming thanks. Alyson’s practice of reading poetry and the psalms.
And these two practices may resonate with some, though not all!
This question extended to the Midrash gathering,
and it was fascinating to see how each of us, uniquely connects to and expresses gratitude, awe, wonder, in different ways,
much like pieces on a quilt. *
Some of us are visual gratitude geeks. We stand in Bryce Canyon in awe, we watch an eagle, or geese in flight, and the soul soars with them. We lose ourselves in the uniqueness of every tulip in the garden, our eyes are windows into God’s grandeur and they fire the synapses of gratitude within us.
For others joy provokes song, and songs provoke joy and gratitude. Even the song of a cardinal at 4:20 am, or the sound of a waterfall, or a poem well read (by a girl in yellow on a January day).. sometimes we don’t even know we’re grateful, until we speak, and then it comes out of our mouths,
and spreads on the wind like dandelion seeds.
For others we just need to get bodies involved, our hands dirty, be immersed fully into creation and action, to perceive and proclaim gratefulness for the gifts of life and living by being in it:
holding a newborn against your chest, wearing the gift of a child around your neck, connecting with the earth, the water, sitting in a kayak at sunset, hands squelching wet clay, or icing a cake.
Others, finding community, particularly after isolation, to be a gift beyond price, that makes tears well up, not of sadness, but of grief-tinged gratitude of being welcomed for who you are.
Sharing gratitude in company. Hearing the hhmmm that echoes the thanks of your heart.
Then there are the ones for whom words make worlds. Who crave the mellifluous phrase of others that provokes our own
gratefulness, and those of us who can’t find our thanks, or anything, until a pen is in our hands, fingers on a keyboard.
And God has gifted the world with those whose gratitude
is a heart worn on a sleeve, who put their bodies on the line
of the world’s pain; but who get to watch the first flight of Syrian refugees land, who get to feel gratitude overtake fear when standing in solidarity with water protectors, or forest guardians, and know this is a day God has made!
The key thing is that we each are made for gratefulness,
and awe, uniquely, but like some skills, God gives us, they atrophy if we don’t use it to train our whole being for a life
that marries with God’s Dream of abundant, just flourishing for all. If we all figure out, and then practice gratitude in ways that feed and nourish our souls for embodied action, the world will be blessed with a patchwork quilt of people and creatures capable of meeting the world’s pain and joy with compassion, passion and gratitude. We are made to pay attention, to be astonished, and to tell about it, each in our own unique way.