thanksgiving in community

 

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Monday, October 10, is a celebration of Thanksgiving throughout much of the world.

It seems to me that the most insightful reflections about thankfulness and gratitude are borne of struggle.

My favourite hymn, Now Thank We All Our God, by Rev. Martin Rinkart, was composed in 1636, at the height of the 30 Years’ War, and amid a devastating plague. In the same year that Pastor Martin composed his hymn, his wife died, he performed over 4000 funerals, and he grieved and worked with his community to rebuild.

Here are some of his lyrics:

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in all grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

From our comfortable vantage point, we might wonder about pastor Martin’s audacity: “How can he have suffered so much, and yet offer such gratitude for his context?”

I have an idea.

This past year, during a challenging economic recession, we witnessed people in our church and neighbourhood house, nourish, and offer gifts of kinship and money to people devastated by the wildfires in Fort McMurray. Despite the struggle, people all over Alberta were abuzz with heart-warming stories of gratitude. It was an offering of thanksgiving borne of struggle. While we should not discount the challenges that people face, or the grief they may feel, we may be changed in our thanksgiving.

I believe that thanksgiving is felt most deeply in community. We do not offer thanksgiving for our material possessions. Instead, real thanksgiving is offered for the community of relationships that shape our lives: relationships with God, family, friends, neighbours, etc. It is community that offer the insight of youth and age; it is community that offers celebration; it is community that moves with us through struggle.

This thanksgiving, whether gathered around a kitchen table, or a communion table, offer gratitude for the many lived experiences that surround you.

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(If you would like a table to gather ’round, Rio Terrace Church, 15108 76 Ave NW, Edmonton, meets every Sunday at 10:30 in the morning.)