by Christine Sine
Over the last few months, Tom and I have been reading The Gratitude Diaries together. The author Janice tells of her year long experiment with gratitude. She took a different shares of her life each month and explored ways to express gratitude in that area. It is a well researched book and has given me much to think about.
In part of last week’s readings she talked about an interview she conducted with psychiatrist Jeffrey Huffman who told her that writing a letter of gratitude is the single most effective positive intervention they found for people who are depressed, hopeless and suicidal. He thought that was because gratitude turned our attention outward helping us to remember that we have connections and people who care about us.
“Realizing that someone did something kind gives so many positive emotions to unpack! If your being grateful you must have been worthy enough for someone to pay attention to you.. You do have somebody in the world who cares about you, and your not alone. The feeling of gratitude can have a profound effect on someone who is feeling isolated and worthless” (281)
I have been a strong advocate for incorporating gratitude into my weekly spiritual disciplines ever since I read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts several years ago. One of my Sabbath questions is What are you grateful for this week? I have also added a week of gratitude to the beginning of Advent as a special celebration. This has helped me negotiate many storms and focus on the hope and joy of the life I am privileged to live. Expressing gratitude has changed me dramatically, both making me more aware of the love of others and empowering me to express love for others.
What Are We Grateful for?
No wonder the central sacrament of our faith, communion, is sometimes called the Great Thanksgiving. This is the place where all followers of Jesus are invited to gather and share fellowship with each other as we remember and respond to the Eternal One who gave everything to draw us back into the embrace of divine love.
The great thanksgiving – but what am I grateful for as I partake? To be honest this was not a question I have really asked myself before. But as I thought about it today a great list came together and my joy overflowed.
I am grateful for the Christ who came in the flesh to show us the face of a God of love and compassion and generosity.
I am grateful for the sacrifices Jesus willing made, allowing his body to be broken and his blood to be shed so that we could be set free.
I am grateful for all who take communion and partake of the Eucharist together, not just in my congregation but but across the world – people from every tribe and nation and culture, rich and poor, disabled and whole, well thought of and despised.
I am grateful for those who have gone before, leaving footprints for me to follow that challenge me to a deeper level of action for justice, healing, love and compassion.
I am grateful for those who will come after and continue the healing work that God has begun.
I am grateful for the bread and the wine, for the earth that grew the flour and grapes, for the human hands that shaped them.
I am grateful for the God who reached into the soil of the earth and molded it beings responsible to steward and look after this earth.
I am grateful for the fact that each human being is infused with part of the essence and image of God. This we see now in part but one day will see it emerge in its fullness, brought to wholeness through the work of the renewing and restoring spirit of God who lives within all of us.
What is Your Response?
As we approach Holy Week and Jesus’ walk to Jerusalem and the Last Supper he shared with his followers which gave birth to the sacrament of communion, it seems like a great time to remember to be grateful for all God has done for us. Watch the video below. Close your eyes and remind yourself of the last time you took communion. Imagine yourself back at the table. Who is with you, both physically standing by you and in your imagination as you think of all those gathered around the world and throughout time? How does it make you feel? What are you grateful for?