There’s this song we will sing Sunday with the line – “take my gifts and let me love you, God first of all who loved me.”
One of my professors in seminary told us about this guy that he met who left this lasting image on him. They were in line to get food in a cafeteria. The food wasn’t anything special, but this guy would just get so excited about the mashed potatoes, the bread, the ham, the pineapple, or whatever it was placed on his plate. He would exclaim, “Wow, this looks amazing. Thank you!” My professor finally asked him if he was trying to be funny, but the guy shook his head and explained that he knew even this food was a gift from God for today.
Another mentor told me about a director of a refugee ministry on the border of Mexico who had lived through a lot of tough times. For lunch, he was offered a fresh apple. The director was so moved and so thankful, that he prayed with tears before savoring every bite.
When I heard those stories, at first, I envied those feelings. Man, it would sure feel good to be so thankful for all of the things I have. How often do I take the abundance I have for granted? But on the other hand, I also felt like maybe those people were overdoing it a little – tears for an apple and excitement over cafeteria food? Come on.
But something kept nagging me about those stories. They began to remind me of how Jesus said that if God fed the birds of the air, how much more would God feed you who are his children?
It’s hard to think this way in life – do all things really come from God? When I bring home a paycheck, isn’t that from my hard work? Isn’t the food I prepare the fruit of my labor?
And yet – we know that food wouldn’t grow if it wasn’t for the gift of life, sun, water, and earth. Our job wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have health, life, education, opportunities, relationship, and energy. Even the people we love, was it really anything we did that convinced them to like or love us?
Perhaps the true beginning of humility and thanksgiving is to understand how fragile life can be and yet how great a gift it is.
We begin a new series on stewardship, giving, and thanksgiving this month. Join us and praise God with your breath, a breath that is even a gift from the Creator of us all.
- Rev. Nathan