I doubt that there is such a thing as a measure of spirituality, but if there is, gratitude would be it. Only the grateful are paying attention. They are grateful because they pay attention, and they pay attention because they are so grateful.
M. Craig Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet

At a recent meeting of the Board of Regents of St. Olaf College Darrell Jodock, Martin E. Marty Professor of Religion and the Academy, reflected on key characteristics that undergird higher education in the Lutheran tradition. The first characteristic of a Lutheran college or university, Dr. Jodock suggested, is “fostering a pervasive sense of giftedness and gratitude.”

As Dr. Jodock spoke, it occurred to me that “fostering a pervasive sense of giftedness and gratitude” is not only a key characteristic of Lutheran colleges and universities; this is a hallmark of any (Lutheran) Christian missionary community. When we are unaware of how gifted we really are, we tend to give most of our crabby attention to what we don’t have and to believe that we have earned what little we do have. We then clutch it with a white-knuckled grip and a stingy heart. But I am convinced that a deep awareness of just how gifted we are in God’s grace gives birth to gratitude which overflows with generosity and leads to living with open hands to receive and share God’s abundant gifts.

This is as true for communities of faith, like congregations, as it is for individuals. In fact, much of the apostle Paul’s writing about giftedness in Christ was written to communities, not to individuals. Paul appears to be quite concerned that communities of faith foster a pervasive sense of giftedness and gratitude that forms disciples who embody God’s own generosity.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
[1 Corinthians 2:12]

And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
[2 Corinthians 9:8]

This time of year many of our communities are drawing up budgets and engaging in stewardship conversations, emphases and campaigns at the same time that we are making plans for family and other Thanksgiving celebrations. What if we let the latter influence the former? What if we spent time in committee meetings, worship services, council meetings, Bible studies and classes paying attention to God’s generosity with, for and among us? What if rather than spending so much time focused on what we think we don’t have we encouraged one another to pay attention to the gifts God has given us?

What if we made some part of every congregational gathering a mini-Thanksgiving, this fall and year ‘round? You know the Thanksgiving dinner routine in so many households: “Let’s go around the table and share something we are thankful for this year.” What if we engaged a similar discipline in our gatherings, helping one another pay attention to the amazing giftedness of this community of faith and cultivating gratitude to God and one another?

“Jane, where do you see God’s abundant gifts in this community?”

“For what or who in this community do you give God thanks, John?”

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
[Colossians 2:6]
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Table Scraps by William O. Gafkjen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.