Faith & Worship: Open your heart and hear God’s blessings

Published 1:56 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2017

“Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my petition.”  (Psalm 55:1)

This past week I looked at my calendar, and I thought, “Good God, how will I ever get everything done well and still be sane when I get to Thanksgiving?” Not only was this going to be extremely busy for me and my family, but my staff were going to be working extra hard practicing music, printing bulletins, making phone calls, and keeping the treasury reports straight.

In the Episcopal Church, the end of October through Christmas is a very busy season with many services and many events. We love the excitement and the whirl of activity, but it often hits me and the staff like a huge tidal wave. I am thankful when these events go well, but often say to myself the little verse above from Psalm 55, “Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my petition.”

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It is easy to think, consciously or unconsciously, that our prayers are answered or ignored based on the outcome of our lives, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Christian God is good in spite of all the evil and suffering that might happen to us personally or in the global scope.

Yes, I would like only good things to happen to me. Yes, I would only like a modicum of stress, no more, in my life. Life, however, does not work that way, and I am thankful that I don’t always get what I want or even need.

In the gospels we find Jesus unerringly focused on the suffering, abuse, torture, and death that he will encounter in Jerusalem. He doesn’t tell the disciples that he will protect them from difficult or painful things; rather, he tells them that God is faithful, and that he is faithful. He shows them gratitude and faithfulness with each step of his ministry while also showing them that his ministry will lead to a gruesome death on a cross.

All of this is to say that Thanksgiving from a Christian perspective is about God’s love and fidelity to all of God’s people and all of God’s creation. We don’t give thanks for the good stuff, lament the bad stuff, and disregard the mediocre stuff. No, we are told to look at our whole life, all of it, and offer it back to God with gratitude, faithfulness, and love.

The Christian life is always seeking how our lives can be evermore deeply transformed. Have we sinned? Well, that needs to be offered with sincerity, gratitude, and love to God. Have we suffered in ways that no other human can seemingly understand? That needs to be offered with sincerity, gratitude, and love to God. If we can only offer to God the good stuff of worldly success, then we will actually have precious little to offer to God and a lot of stuff will cling to us and weigh us down with resentment.

This Thanksgiving week I will indeed be busy, but God is whispering quietly and praying down upon us, “I am not hiding, and I am indeed listening. Will you but open your heart and hear me speak my blessings of love and grace upon you?”

~ Father Robert Ard, Holy Cross Episcopal Church