I believe that the Christian life is first and foremost a life of gratitude to God, Thanksgiving is the beginning and the end of the Christian life. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s gracious gifts, nor is there anything we have to do to earn them. Everything we do as Christians is, therefore, in response to those gracious gifts. Throughout our lives we work toward the life of gratitude to God to which we are called, being sanctified by the work of God in and through us.
Central among God’s gracious acts is God’s incarnation in Jesus. Jesus was both fully God and fully human, uniquely revealing God to humanity. Jesus proclaimed the presence and the future coming in full of God’s kingdom. In his teachings, he illumined the Hebrew Scriptures and revealed God’s character and will for humanity. He forgave sins, healed brokenness, and strove to break down the barriers that divide humanity. He was condemned by the civil and religious authorities and was put to death. God raised him from death to eternal life. Through his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus restored humanity’s right relationship with God and called all humanity to a life of love and service to God and neighbor.
We give thanks to God, whom Jesus called “our Father.” God created all that exists and continually upholds and nurtures that creation. God guides all of creation according to God’s plan and purposes, directing the hearts of people, the histories of nations, and the movements of nature. God is just and revealed God’s will for humanity by giving the law to the people of Israel. God called them to obedience and judged them for their sinfulness, But God is also merciful and has remained faithful to God’s covenants in spite of human unfaithfulness, forgiving those who turn to God in humility and repentance, and even sending God’s only Son to restore humanity’s relationship with God.
We give thanks that Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who came upon the disciples at Pentecost is the same Spirit who inspired the writers and compilers of the Old and New Testaments and continues to move the hearts, minds, and wills of people even today. The Spirit opens our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to the Scriptures and to the world around us, awakening us to faith and giving us the strength to seek out lives of faith fully engaged in God’s created world.
The community of those in every time and place who have been enlivened by the Spirit constitutes the one church. The church is the fully human body of Christ. It is the body of Christ in that it looks to Christ, its head, for guidance in doing Christ’s work in the world. However, it is also fully human, complicit in sin and corruption, and looking to Christ for forgiveness and hope for renewed life. The church recognizes Christ’s continual presence in its midst, celebrating that presence at font and table, and searching for Christ in persons both inside and outside the community of faith.
In response to God’s gracious acts toward us, God calls us to lives of gratitude expressed in faith, hope and love. Recognizing God’s faithfulness in the past and trusting in God’s continued faithfulness to God’s promises, Christians in every time and place have sought to live lives in accordance to God’s will for the church and for the world, until God’s kingdom comes in full and creation is restored. In addition to this general calling to all Christians, God calls individuals to specific lives of service, giving gifts for use in that service. Therefore, as good stewards of God’s gracious gifts, all Christians are called to search for God’s intended purposes for our specific gifts and to use them in service to God, embodying love for God and neighbor in all that we do.