Last night at Theology over Pizza (our weekly gathering for York students), I asked everyone to name one specific thing that they were thankful for. A variety of things were mentioned: people were thankful for siblings, spouses, children, parents and pets. One was thankful for being at York. Another was even thankful for public transit!
It is a good exercise to be thankful because we so often take things for granted. Sometimes, it takes tragic loss to shock us back into realizing how important certain things are to us, and how we should be grateful that they were in our lives.
I wonder sometimes if we take God for granted. I think this is a temptation for Christians because we always emphasize God’s love and grace to us undeserving sinners. We have never needed to earn God’s love. God loved us before we loved him.
That is the power of the Christian gospel message: we do not earn God’s favor and hence, we can break free from the vicious cycle of guilt-earning favor-failing- guilt. God says “Your guilt is all paid for in Jesus Christ”. And, from there, we do good not to earn God’s already bestowed favor but to say, “Thank you!” Our whole lives should be a giant thank you to God.
But it is precisely because of undeserved grace so lavishly given to us that we are in danger of taking God’s grace for granted. God who forgives not just seven times but seventy times seven (which in ancient Jewish terms is to say, completely and forever), always forgives us when we disobey him, when we fail to heed his call to love our neighbors and to do justice. We can be in danger of being complacent about following God’s ways.
We may forget that though God’s nature is to be forgiving, God does not have to forgive. God does not need to save any one of us. God does not need to redeem his creation. He is absolutely just and guiltless to let us all condemn ourselves in our sinful and wayward ways. God was not obligated to save us. But he chose to save us out of love, not duty nor necessity.
Hence, this Canadian Thanksgiving, I encourage you, in the midst of all else that you are thankful for, as Christians, to thank God specifically for his grace and mercy, and remind yourselves not to take God for granted.
Prayer: (from George Herbert, an Anglican poet-priest in the 17th Century)
Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart whose very pulse
May be thy praise.