Celtic cross retreat 2011

Celtic cross decorating altar retreat 2011

Our 21st Annual Celtic retreat is only a few day away. There is still time to sign up and the weather promises to be perfect. Our theme this year is thanksgiving and gratitude. Join us for a time of prayer and worship with Celtic musician Jeff Johnson, for times of meditation and contemplation. Join our rich fellowship together as we share pot luck meals. Join with us in dedicating the beginning of the first building of the Mustard Seed Village. Join us in creating a prayer wall and prayer flags. Walk the prayer trails and soak in the beauty of God’s creation. This will be an awesome weekend and we would love to celebrate it with you.

An outdoor cathedral amongst the trees

An outdoor cathedral amongst the trees

As a sneak preview here is what I wrote for the introduction to our weekend.

Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honours me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God. (Psalm 50: 23)

Giving thanks, living in gratitude for the rich and abundant blessings of God, being content to sit, enjoy and absorb what God has provided now, in this moment, this is indeed the pathway to God. This is where we often see the salvation of God revealed. One of the hallmarks of our faith is contentment in all circumstances even in the midst of pain, suffering and struggle. This only comes when we take time to pause, reflect, recognize the gifts of God in our lives and be grateful. To grow in intimacy with God and move deeper into that loving union we all so desperately crave we must learn to live in gratitude for what each moment holds.

This kind of faith does not come easily to us. It must be learned through discipline and commitment. Discontent is built into our society. Our consumer culture encourages and manipulates us to be envious and discontented. No matter what we have, enough always seems just beyond the horizon. So how can we learn to say with Paul:

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. (Phil 4:11-13 NLT)

After hearing a discourse on gratitude, my friend Sue and her husband Chuck decided to begin each day by naming ten things they felt truly grateful for. “The discipline worked a new muscle, but over time, it became a natural part of our day. We found ourselves not only “naming” thankfulness in the morning, but looking for things to add to our list all during the day. Our hearts smiled. We grew expectant.”

More recently after meditating on Philippians 4:6, Sue developed a new discipline every time she asked God for something, prayed for a person, or expressed fear and anxiety. She forced herself to stop and be present in the moment. Then, she named something related to her request that she was truly grateful for – before asking anything. A sense of peace and calm followed. Now, the prayer often seems secondary, the need less urgent and the sense of God whispering, “I’ve got it covered” more clear.

At the end of this retreat we will share the Eucharist together, a very appropriate part of the thanksgiving celebration. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eukaristos meaning “to give thanks” and it is often referred to as “The Great Thanksgiving.” As we come to the communion table we remember and we give thanks for all that Jesus has done for us through his life, death and resurrection. We give thanks for all the things he has done that reveal the love of God to us, all the things that made him a leader worth following. At the same time we should remember and give thanks for the many blessings we still experience every day as we share our lives with him and with all God’s creatures.

However in the midst of taking communion we are reminded that we cannot fully enter into the great thanksgiving of God when so many people in our world are without a place to live, nourishing food to eat, and adequate health care. In the midst of our own thanksgiving we should be doing all that we can to make sure that no one in our society or indeed in our world is hungry, cold or sick. We will only be able to fully celebrate with thanksgiving when all the world’s people are able to share in the bounty of God’s world together not just for a day but for the rest of eternity.

So let us give thanks today for all that God has lavished on us in anticipation of the day when we will join together with all God’s people in the great thanksgiving feast of the kingdom.

 

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