A Message from the Rector - "Deep Gratitude"
Just like that, it’s November, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner! For some of us, that thought alone strikes feelings of panic. Perhaps for others, feelings of dread. And still others, this holiday season will be filled with sadness – sadness over having lost a loved one, and for some, having lost their entire homes. As we approach the rush of the holiday season, I want to invite you to center yourself on your faith and to know that this season can be deeply renewing.
When I think of the holidays, I think of family. I have a pretty big family and married into an even bigger one. Preparing for big family moments takes time and energy. Old recipes are brought out, travel arrangements are made, and décor is planned. Our family holidays are rich with traditions and opportunities to recall favorite stories. When we get together, there’s music and laughter, food and games, and all the good drama that makes big family moments fun! And yet, our holidays are more than just a time for celebration. Holidays are a time for deep gratitude.
Over the last two months, our Saint Michael family has been exploring the ideas of grace and gratitude. Grace is freely given to us. There is nothing we can do to earn grace and nothing we can do to lose grace. God’s grace is a gift that finds us when life is going well and when life is going badly. When we become aware of true grace, we begin to understand how God works in the world, and our response to that grace is most purely expressed through gratitude.
To know that we are loved as we are, not in spite of our imperfections but because of them, often produces a deep sense of gratitude. I know that I am grateful for the love and acceptance of God even with all my imperfections, and I see evidence of gratitude in so many of you, too. That deep sense of gratitude leads us away from what I believe is our natural, self-centered nature toward a spirit of generosity. Generosity is born out of gratitude, and a generous spirit transforms us over time.
I saw examples of gratitude and generosity last month after the devastating tornadoes that ripped through North Dallas. For some, the tornadoes destroyed their homes. Only hours after the tornadoes blew through, a friend of mine was standing in front of the shell of her home and said, “We were saved by the grace of God. We are safe. The house is destroyed but all of that’s replaceable.” Her gratitude is born out of her faithfulness – her true, deep belief that what we see is not all there is.
For most of us, however, we did not lose our homes. Yet nearly all of us know someone who suffered a great loss and we were motivated to help. Although some may have helped those in need out of a sense of obligation, I believe our faith gave most of us a desire to help that is born out of gratitude, rooted in the truth of God’s grace. We know we are loved, we are grateful for that love, and we want to be generous in sharing love with our neighbors. Countless members of our Saint Michael family helped in big a small ways, from picking up trash and preparing meals, to donating money and coordinating relief efforts – so many answered the call to help.
Saint Michael—our faith family—is here. We have been here for nearly 75 years and we aren’t going anywhere. The stability of Saint Michael is a gift to each one of us, especially in our times of greatest need. You can help by donating supplies, donating money, and most importantly, showing up for your friends. Don’t hesitate to reach out to those you know are hurting. Your presence is the truest gift. And most importantly, pray for and with each other.
Prayer is central to who we are and grounds us in our faith. We do not pray in order to get a certain outcome in the world (God is not a cosmic vending machine). Instead, prayer shapes our behavior and our belief, and prayer forms the strength of our church community. Pray for one another, and even better, pray with one another. When we pray together, we root ourselves in the sacred truth that life – our eternal life – is bigger than anything we can see or imagine.
We have so many reasons to be grateful this year, and as we look toward the holidays, we approach a season that will give us many opportunities to express that gratitude. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Epiphany all give us an opportunity to celebrate the lives we have and look forward with hope to the future. This year, as we celebrate, I hope that we will be far more aware of how we are blessed. The blessings we receive from God may not always take the form we expect or want, but I believe that we can find gratitude in every one of them. God’s love for us is real and eternal, so may our celebratory shouts be songs of praise and thanksgiving!
The Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Girata