“And be grateful.” These are the last three words of Colossians 3:15. While they are powerful words, they are words easier said than done. Why? Because expressing gratitude takes time.
Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks. And you might respond, in the words of a popular commercial, “Yeah, everyone knows that.” “But did you know…”
Did you know that to be motivated to truly give thanks, you have to have some sort of perspective as to why you should be grateful? You will only be grateful if you think you are the recipient of blessings you do not deserve, or you have been graced with some kindness that is beyond you. If you believe you have created, or caused, or can explain all the good things that have happened to you, you will be fulfilled, and maybe proud, but not grateful. Gratitude comes from a sense of wonder as to “Why has God been so good to me?” Why indeed?
I tell you this because, at this very moment, I am incredibly grateful for the heart of this church. Why exactly? Simply because of what I experienced last night. Last night (Thanksgiving Eve) we held eight different services to give thanks to God.
Let me put a few things in perspective. These days, having a Thanksgiving Eve service is not a common practice in churches in America (Christmas Eve, yes, Thanksgiving Eve, no). While I’m sure we are not the only church in America that holds a special service on Thanksgiving Eve, we are the only one I know of. The reason churches don’t do this, I assume, is because “everyone knows” that people are just too busy the night before Thanksgiving to take time out to attend church. There is travel, shopping, food prep, etc. to consider. Who has time to worship? Everyone knows that holding a service on the night before Thanksgiving is a dumb idea. Well, maybe not everyone. This is a tradition we’ve done for the last twenty or so years.
So last night, we held at least one service on each of our five campuses. Again, common sense might suggest that perhaps we should hold just one service on just one of our campuses and invite everybody in our church to that service. If so, we could hope that collectively we could get enough people to come to make it worth the effort. But why hold services on five different campuses? Because that’s the only way we can accommodate the crowds that show up to thank God!!! In fact, on three of our campuses we have to have more than one service just to handle the numbers of people that come to participate! In total, just south of 7000 people made it a priority to worship and thank God last night!!! But wait… there’s more! Those 7000 people brought thousands of boxes of food for the Children’s Hunger Fund, and also gave thousands and thousands of dollars to help people who are hurting financially.
You see, at Central, we believe there is more to life than us. We believe we have been made for more than what this world offers. While we all live in a very self-centered and consumeristic society, we are trying to learn to put God first in everything. It’s a hard sell. Everyone knows people won’t put God’s interest before their own. Everyone knows they come first!
So right now, I’m extremely grateful to God that we have become a church that is full of people who don’t know what everyone else seems to know. Thank you, more, for knowing that all good things come from God and he deserves your time, your attention, and your thanks.
Keep it up, church, and one day maybe everyone will indeed know that!