I have been an employed minister of the Community of Christ for 15 years. I have taught a lot of classes and I have preached a lot of sermons. After a sermon, many times, people come up to me and thank me for my “message.” This is always awkward and sometimes embarrassing because it is difficult for me to accept praise or gratitude. These times are always humbling. Even though I find it difficult to accept thanks, I graciously accept because my acceptance of their offering is a way for grace to expand and a way for the expresser of gratitude to be a blessing.
Many years ago I began a practice to express gratitude to others for what they have meant to me in my life. I remember the first time I thought about an intentional expression of my gratitude was to Dick, a fishing friend. I had known and worked beside him as a volunteer for several years. We had shared shop time and stream time, coffee and pie and prime rib. Dick was moving away from where I lived and I doubted I would ever see him again. I wanted to tell him to his face just how important he was in my life. This took us both by surprise. He moved on to his life in a new place knowing what I thought of him and how important he was to me in my development as a man.
On my better days I express my gratitude to those around me. I remember once in a restaurant where I received very good service. Before leaving I asked to see the manager. Usually that is bad news to a server and to the establishment. When the manager came out, the server was present. I praised the young man for how he had taken care of our group of diners. I also suggested to the manager the young man should get a raise.
Expressions of gratitude do not need to be sappy or tearful to be sincere and heart felt. An expression of genuine gratitude comes out of practice. Practicing gratitude is an essential part of being a disciple of Jesus. We are challenged to express to God our gratitude for all things in life. Even after times of struggle and pain we can find things to be thankful for in that time of struggle. I moved a lot as a child, it was hard to make friends every year or so, but I am thankful for that part of my life for the ways it has prepared me for ministry. I am not shy.
Gratitude as a spiritual discipline follows our recognition of the abundance of God’s grace expressed through the created order. If we are consciously seeking the movement of God in our lives and our communities we will find such abundance that our gratitude will flow freely from us. This free flow of gratitude will include all that we are and all that we have and that outward flow is called generosity.
Look to the blessings in your family and in your congregation. Tell people who serve you and those who you serve how grateful you are for them. In that expression you both will experience God’s unbounded grace and the kingdom will be near.