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An Attitude of Gratitude

by The Reverend Canon Dr. Stephanie Spellers on November 18, 2022

In 1863, the thick of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. He knew how divided America was, with entire families and regions suffering deep wounds, stark deprivation, and seemingly untenable ideological difference. He hoped the annual commemoration would help families to gather, remember and give thanks, even as they faced the uncertain and painful days ahead.

More than 150 years later, we live in a time of deep division, pain and uncertainty. It marks and cleaves families, churches, and our entire nation. Many of us are genuinely worried about how to gather with people who hold vastly different beliefs and opinions, in our own families or in the wider community. There are no quick fixes, but there is a Christian practice to which we can return, and it is the one President Lincoln recommended: gratitude.

If we can remain rooted in gratitude to God for this new day, for this life, for even this next breath, a miracle becomes possible. Our energy and our gaze shifts. We see God’s goodness even when there are shadows all around. If we begin with gratitude and ask for eyes to see Jesus in the other—not as a pithy phrase that hides judgment, but as a deep spiritual practice—we can avoid falling more deeply into “us” vs. “them” patterns and begin the long, slow, rehumanizing work of reconciliation (which requires both forgiveness and justice).

At some point in the week ahead, I encourage you to read this article about “A Theology of Thankfulness” from the United Thank Offering, an old and wonderful ministry of gratitude in the Episcopal Church. When despair or frustration loom, when you want to scream and leave the Thanksgiving table, return to gratitude. Find even one shard of light in the shadows, and thank God for it. You will be changed, and—believe it or not—you will be participating in the transformation and healing of our families, our nation and our world.

Thank you and amen.

Canon Stephanie+


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