To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything God has given us – and God has given us everything…. Gratitude, therefore, takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.
~ Thomas Merton
The slower pace of summertime, I find, lends itself to a deepened sense of gratitude. Some of that arises simply from a break in the daily rhythms of life that comes with the season – trips and adventures, family reunions, expansive vistas along the seashore or from a mountaintop, an extended Sabbath rest from the usual routines of life. Longer days seem to spark an inner light and lightness of being that allow me to linger over the beauty of hydrangeas blooming at every turn, the birds feasting and flying around the yard, the fresh herbs overflowing their containers and the promise of green tomatoes on the vine. Summer just naturally invites grateful mindfulness for the gifts of life in the beauty of God’s creation.
This year as we emerge from the longtime lockdown and isolation of the pandemic this sense of gratitude is magnified. Those things we were unable to enjoy last summer, like travel and gatherings with family and friends, has reminded us never to take these blessings of life, as Thomas Merton observed, for granted.
What is true on the homefront is certainly true at the church. Mark Ramsey, one of my pastoral colleagues, has written, “When a prolonged crisis reveals and accelerates our need for care, community, connection, depth and equity, there is an unprecedented opportunity for the church to respond as a wellspring of each of these – as an initiator of care and connection, a model of true community, and as a trusted partner in striving for equity for all.”
During the comings and goings of summer, we at the church are attending to this accelerated need for care, community, connection, depth and equity. These qualities of incarnate community are at the forefront of our worship and work, our pastoral care and outreach into the community - not simply because this is the work to which we are called, but more pointedly because this is how we live in grateful response to God. The gift of the pandemic, if we are bold to claim any silver lining in it, is a reminder to take nothing for granted, to reawaken to new wonder, to increase our mindfulness of God’s goodness, and to enjoy the care and connection of the body of Christ, the church.