Devote Yourselves to Prayer…

Most of us are taught from an early age to live an unsatisfied life. We are trained to see our current situation as unsatisfactory, that if we can just get through the next challenge, get to the next life milestone, that we will have “made it” and life will be better for us. No sooner have we crossed that milestone, however, than we are off to the races again to get ahead of the next challenge or milestone in life. But what if we were just thankful for what we have now? Could gratitude change our life for the better? You bet! That’s exactly why the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Colossae, encourages these early Christians with the scripture verse above. The ethic of gratitude focuses our souls on praising God, it drives us away from selfishness and narcissism, and it helps us enjoy this one life we have here on earth!

My first pastoral appointment began in the summer of 2007, just two months after I graduated seminary. I started that first Sunday morning with the knowledge that, after those three years in graduate school as a working student, a whole new education was about to begin. I’ve been blessed to officiate at many weddings and also presided over many funerals and memorial services. Some were for people I barely knew, while others were for people I had grown to deeply respect and admire. And yes, some were for scoundrels. But in all the services I’ve ever done, I can’t remember a single time the family said, “I wish dad had worked harder and bought us a bigger house,” or “I’m so sorry we didn’t have a nicer car.” Instead, when I hear families talk about their loved one, they talk about how their loved one made them feel. They express gratitude for the good memories, the hard times that they went through together, and the love they often felt, even when it was spoken only with a smile. This gratitude is what allows them to heal and travel through the valley of grief; and I am thankful for how these families have, time and time again, inspired me with their expressions of gratitude for their lived one. Gratitude doesn’t just affect the person feeling it; I’ve come to realize, it is infectious in its ability to inspire others, even when it’s done through the tears of mourning.

This November, I hope you’ll devote yourself to meditate on gratitude as we go from Sunday to Sunday. All Saints Sunday challenges us to be thankful for the Christians who have gone before us; the following Sunday will encourage us to be thankful for those who serve through our military and the service of our United Methodist Men of the year. On November 17th we are thankful for each other and for the work God is doing in our midst as we pledge another year of mission together. On November 24th, we express our gratitude for God’s love by loving those in our community who are less fortunate when we take our worship outside to bring in a harvest for Interfaith Emergency Services’ Food Pantry.

This month will be chock-full of gratitude, and my prayer is that it is infectious to everyone we meet!       

Gratefully Yours,

Robert