With Memorial Day just past, we have gotten countless reminders to express our gratitude to our veterans, and especially to those who did not return, for whom the Day was proclaimed. Personally, I am incredibly grateful to the men and women of The Greatest Generation, who rapidly geared up to rebuild and create a whole new defense program, and prevent world domination by what was clearly an evil administration, who perpetrated some of the worst horrors on fellow humans that the world has ever seen. I shudder to think of what life might be like today if Adolf Hitler had come into power.
So gratitude comes easily to mind when we think about what might have been, even as we grapple with the latest challenge of overcoming the scourge of the coronavirus. But thank God we have people who are working diligently to find the solutions that will return us to “normalcy.” In a grand sense, God has given us this awesome world (and universe) with magnificent mountain ranges, gorgeous seaside vistas, and the plains that provide fertile ground for planting and grazing to provide our food supply. And on a “micro” scale, we have plants that germinate from tiny seeds and grow into life-giving food, nurtured by the energy of the sun, and activated by the rains that God has engineered through the hydrological cycle. Our bodies are governed by complex systems that regulate our heart rate and breathing, with the astonishing abilities to fend off diseases and spontaneously heal all manner of wounds and malfunctions. These incredibly intricate systems work pretty effectively without adjustment, but occasionally get misdirected. Consequently God has given us the amazing ability to replicate and learn about the natural systems, and help to find ways to supplement the ecological processes.
So many mechanisms happen without our involvement that it is easy and common to take these remarkably complex processes for granted. I’m reminded of the story of the man who was late for a job interview and prayed fervently for a parking space. When a space opened up in front of the place he was going, he said, “That’s ok, Lord; I found one on my own!” This sort of hubris seems to have afflicted many of the Israelites who were being led out of Egypt to the promised land. Recognizing this shortcoming, we have developed mechanisms to assure that we express our gratitude to God appropriately—we call it Worship. The Book of Order states: “Christian worship joyfully ascribes all praise and honor, glory and power to the triune God.” In worship and in prayer, we acknowledge the awesome gifts we have received and express our eternal thanksgiving.
But is our prayer regimen enough to express our thankfulness for the awesome, incredible (there aren’t enough superlatives!) benefits we have been given? Our Israelite forebears had specific forms of sacrifice to repent for their failings, but God later gave us the extraordinary sacrifice of his own Son, which blesses all of us for all time. We can pray and express our love for our Heavenly Father, but what can we do to demonstrate our prevailing gratitude? Jesus tells us, at Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Wow! We can show our gratitude to God in everyday terms by helping out our fellows here on earth—in modern parlance, “Pay it forward!” That means your volunteer time with North Fulton Charities or your gift to the church’s Mission committee serve to show our appreciation to God. It may not be easy, but it’s simple. That’s it!