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Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers in Christ.
Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude. We have much to be thankful for. As Christians, we don’t simply hold this warmth in our hearts or our families, but we direct our thanks to God, as the source of all good things, and we allow our thanks to transform our actions towards others.
Gratitude is an attitude of transformation. It’s an outward sign of God working within us. God works to free us from turning in to ourselves. God works to make us people who trust in God, people of faith, turned towards God with thanksgiving.
I know that’s God’s vision, so why am I not a more thankful person? Why is it so easy to fall into complaining rather than giving thanks? To be caught in worry rather than trust?
Jesus speaks words that drive right into our experience: “Do not worry.” How many of us can say we lived in to that invitation?
Jesus knows the kinds of things we worry about: what we will eat, and what we will drink, and what we will wear. We worry about finding a job, making enough money, or passing the next test, finding friends, being safe at home or school. We worry over those we love, about their health and their wellbeing. We worry about our churches and the spiritual growth of our communities.
Jesus doesn’t give us a list of things that it’s ok to worry about. He says, “Do not worry.” Worrying doesn’t help. Your worry doesn’t do anyone any good.
The kind of anxiety that Jesus is talking about, this worry, comes from our illusion of control. We might even go so far as to call it sin. We set ourselves up as gods over our own lives. We think we’re in charge, and so we spend much time worrying about whether or not we’ll be able to make the future match our plans. We try to gain control over other people. We complain when our reality doesn’t match our expectations, because we believe we should be able to make our expectations happen.
But we’re not in charge. God is. Jesus promises that God will take care of us.
Faith is the antidote to worry.
Living free from worry about ourselves frees us to live for Christ. We achieve this freedom as God turns our minds closer to the mindset Paul declares he has when he says, “I’ve learned to be content with what I have.”
When Paul encourages us with his example of being content in both richness and poverty, he points us to the source of all we have. God has given us everything. Jesus tells us that God desires to give us, not only our daily needs, but citizenship in God’s kingdom.
Paul is not speaking to the poor, telling them to be content with their poverty, and to the rich, to enjoy their riches. He does not mean to stomp the poor down in their poverty. Rather he invites all of us in to a different mindset, in which all our attempts to control our wealth and well-being grow out of God’s sure and certain gift of salvation.
God has already done what is necessary to make you well. Jesus has achieved what you could not do: making you right before God. Your identity as a beloved child of God has been secured and is for life. This big stuff is taken care of.
With a recognition that our salvation is out of our hands, and that it’s a good thing we are not in control of our salvation, we turn to the decisions of our daily lives. In what else might we relinquish control?
We are called to hold all things loosely, not only for the sake of reducing our anxiety, but for the sake of our neighbors. It is our call and responsibility to feed the poor, house the homeless, welcome the stranger, comfort the grieved, and wipe away the tears of pain and fear. When the rich hold what they have loosely, the poor will not want for anything. God has provided enough for all when it is shared.
When we function as gods over our lives, we hold all things tightly. We are attached to our plans for our lives.
Ignatius of Loyola writes, “We need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things… we should not want…wealth more than poverty… health more than sickness… we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created (which is to praise God)” (Principle and Foundation)
What would it look like for you to serve God in whatever circumstance you find yourself in?
How might you cultivate a gratitude that comes from having a loose hold on all things? Not grasping on to life, money, house, job, but only on to Jesus? So that you can say to yourself, these other things might slip or be taken out of my hands but even then I am not lost- I still have Jesus.
I find freedom when I remember this truth: I control so little. Perhaps I can, with the help of God, control my attitude towards the world. God pulls me around to Godself, to faith. Holding on to God, I can hold on to all else loosely. Everything is gift. Nothing is mine to possess with attachment.
Thanksgiving and freedom from worry rise out of a recognition of who is the source of all we need- and that we have already been given what is most important, a permanent place in God’s family. God will take care of us- God has already given his Son for us- what more could God hold back? We are called to live with the same looseness – so that what we have flows out of our hands and into those most in need.
For life with God, for all that we have, for opportunities to serve alongside the God who provides for all, we rejoice: Thanks be to God.
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