I will give thanks, Oh God, with my whole heart, before the gods I will sing your praise.
I have watched Annie create art for many years. She makes something interesting, something that tells or evokes a story out of ordinary and sundry things. It is art, isn’t it, when something becomes special, unique, pleasing to behold and to be around. It is in us, all of us, as children of the cosmic creator, made in the image of Divine Creation, to be creative. To be artists. To co-create a life that is pleasing and filled with passion and story. To see every day of our life, and all that fills those days, as a work of art. I believe it is also in us to see all of it as a canvas for our own creating.
Being creative, doing art requires mindful intention. A person sets themselves to gathering the materials, making the time, putting forth the effort to be creative. Inspiration, intention, mindful action are all essential ingredients in a life well lived. All of this brings me to my point that being thankful, living a life in gratitude, is an art. The art of being Thankful. Is this not the very purpose Jesus called the church to keep in his wake, to offer the Great Thanksgiving, “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God; It is right to give God Thanks and praise; It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, God almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”
Like the act of making art, being thankful, making one’s life a thank offering, is a deliberate choice. A person chooses to be thankful, to recognize their life, and all that is in it, as a free gift they neither earned nor warranted. Every day we are able to watch the sun rise and set. We are included in the passing of the seasons and the glory of each one. The landscape is filled with sights and sounds that are ours to behold. Each person we encounter is filled with interest and potential friendship.
People who are giving their lives to giving thanks create…. They create environments of joy. They create rooms of laughter and warmth. They illumine the magic in the world and simple goodness that simply is. Their generosity and appreciation builds the world’s institutions of art, of compassion, of education.
We are often distracted by the insistence that there should be more to life. That we should have more. That we should have what we don’t, and as long as this dominates our thinking, we have lost the art of being thankful. Whenever our attention is drawn to that which is lacking or missing in a day, in our life, we commence the journey to unhappiness, restlessness, dissatisfaction. Our demeanor changes, our attitude grows critical, the great expanse that is our life, grows smaller, shallow, and hard.
I think equally, unhelpful and uncreative, is to allow ourselves the place of being satisfied and comfortable. To allow ourselves the place of self-satisfaction where we spend all of our energy hanging on to and protecting what we have. We no longer exercise the art of giving thanks, of giving back, of co-creating, but instead exercise our energy protecting and possessing all we have managed to gain for ourselves. And then, something happens… someone comes into our life who by all visible evidence has very little, much less than we do, and yet they exhibit, their life creates, the art of being thankful.
Because it is an art, being thankful takes the mundane things of life and make them extraordinary. A little becomes a lot. Small becomes big enough. A few friends, or even one, is cherished, and appreciated. When I am thankful for being who I am, where I am, and who I share all of it with, well…. My life is blessed. And it is blessed, when we, like the psalmist, offer thanks to God, with all of my heart.
I know have sixty years to reflect upon my life. If I do some honest reflection, the times in my life that suffer darkness, or were flat – the times that lacked the natural and creative juices flowing through my veins — If I were to assess a common denominator — it was my life had ceased being an offering of thanksgiving. I had stopped making the art of giving thanks. I was focused on being dissatisfied. I had grown apathetic or took for granted all the blessings in my life. I was in the midst of something difficult and painful and all my attention was drawn there. Life had changed and the elements I once based my joy upon, were no longer present and I failed, or simply chose, to not open my eyes and heart, to new gifts and possibilities. I believe I am like everyone else in this matter. It takes a whole lifetime of maturing to continue the art of giving thanks, even when life is hard and encumbered with suffering.
As I return from a time of being away from the parish, I return with a sense of appreciation for my life and for all with whom I share it. I am thankful to God for each of you and the parish family and life that we partner. We have walked together this past year amidst many changes, and we are still adjusting to much of it. But God has called us together make the Eucharist, to offer the great thanksgiving. To come together, artists everyone of us, and create the art of Thanksgiving. Here, together, in our common worship, and each and every day as we walk in this world.