THANKFULNESS IS MORE THAN COUNTING BLESSINGS

Give Thanks  The old hymn encourages us to “Count your blessings, name them one by one.”  Needless to say, it serves us well to pause and consider all the ways in which we have been blessed in our lives.  Thanksgiving season and services that include invitation to share things for which we are thankful can be positive exercises.  Such activity invites us to not only count, but announce individual blessings for which we are grateful.   Most of us could fill up a notebook with enumerated things in our lives for which we give thanks.  Having been a part of many Thanksgiving services over the years, I can think of some dependable pronouncements that are guaranteed to be part of any such service where blessings are counted and named “one by one.”  I also remember that in church staff meetings there was usually one staff member to wave the caution flag to remind us that there would be people present in any service for whom certain blessings might trigger sadness or contradiction.  It was not until I had matured some in ministry that I could appreciate such a tension.  It is likely true, for instance, that for some people family may not have been such a source of blessing as they experienced it, and therefore having others pronounce such may bring pain or sadness in that way.

It seems good that we open the lens a bit wider and consider a larger picture in this season of Thanksgiving, and especially as we facilitate and encourage times of worship in the season.  Of course, Thanksgiving services have roots in a variety of influences.  There is a clear patriotic element for Americans, hailing back to the early 1600’s, Plymouth Rock, and stories of pilgrims and Indians.  Giving thanks for country is most appropriate, as recognized by past presidents including the first, George Washington, and 74 years later by Abraham Lincoln, who is credited with the 1863 declaration standardizing the time of the celebration.   There is no question that we Americans have been blessed through the principles upon which our country was founded and through untold blessings of bounty by comparison to the rest of the world.

Lest our Thanksgiving season worship miss the central focus of Christian worship, we need the lens opened yet wider to help us remember that the story of each of our lives, the story of blessings we enjoy, the story of families, the story of country, all are captured up in a larger story of our Triune God.  He is our God, and we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.  Creation, the Fall, the Promise, the Birth, Atoning Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus, and Promised Return toward which we watch and wait, are parts of the story in which all other stories exist.  Christian worship reminds us of our orientation in this larger story.

It is one thing to count individual blessings, but Christian worship at its core helps us to live thankful (Eucharistic) lives.  The Dutch priest and author, Henri Nouwen, reminds us that a Eucharistic (thankful) life is always lived out in mission.

Forming a community with family and friends, building a body of love, shaping a new people of the resurrection:  all of this is not just so that we can live a life protected from the dark forces that dominate our world; it is, rather, to enable us to proclaim together to all people, young and old, white and black, poor and rich, that death does not have the last word, that hope is real and God is alive.       (Nouwen, With Burning Hearts, 110)

The GOSPEL reaches out to a lost world through the lives of thankful people living thankful (Eucharistic) lives.  Gathered worship reminds us, re-orients us through Word and Table (response) to the truth that we were created by the Giver whose love is so great that He gave all that we might have eternal life, and that our life would be made abundant as we know the joy of  living as givers.  We follow the way of Jesus, in light of His grace having provided what we could never provide for ourselves.

Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One.

Happy Thanksgiving living!

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

One Comment on “THANKFULNESS IS MORE THAN COUNTING BLESSINGS”


  1. Good words Paul. And a good reminder to look wider and deeper: “Further up and further in!” as C.S. Lewis would say. Thank you!


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