I had the joy of attending my brother’s wedding just a few weeks back. Surrounded by family, old friends and communities that have all played an important part in my life and my faith journey reminded me of the importance of gratitude as a practice of Christian discipleship. Gratitude for the ways that God has worked through all of these people and places to bring me to where I am now. Gratitude for the ways I have been allowed to grow in the midst of all of these incredible people. And gratitude for all that these people do for the sake of the world!
I am grateful for the community of faith I grew up in: St. Matthew’s Lutheran in Wilmington, N.C. It was there that — washed in the waters of baptism and claimed by “God’s gracious, self-giving love” — I learned how to live in a community that existed for the sake of the world. It’s there I experienced the importance of good friendships in the life of discipleship. And it’s there that I was taught exactly which candle to light first as an acolyte.
I am grateful for the community that I worked with for ten summers at Camp Lutheridge in Arden, N.C. There — amongst campers, counselors, pastors and parents — I saw how powerful intentional community can be for the growth of faith. I saw my friends do incredible things, and I learned how God’s creation can serve as a great classroom for what it means to follow Christ and serve others. (And I now know that you always have to warn people not to waive around their marshmallow that has caught on fire, or someone will get hurt.)
I am grateful for the Lutheran seminary communities I have spent time in, first as a student at Southern Seminary and then as staff at Gettysburg and Philadelphia Seminaries. At all of these places I was humbled and inspired by people’s sense of following God’s call. The faculty and friends that support one another in these places are incredible. Late nights spent with friends trying to figure out exactly how to explain the mystery of communion led to supportive friendships. As we encounter joys and struggles in our ministry, we continue to support each other.
At LWR, I get to witness countless groups around the world who form community. The communities in Ghana that make up the cocoa farming cooperative of Kuapa Kokoo and share with us Divine Chocolate support one another in incredible ways. They have become the first largely farmer-owned chocolate company in the world. Women’s self-help groups in India stand with one another as they learn new farming and economic skills for the sake of their children’s future. The community created amongst students in El Salvador learning new baking skills for the sake of their communities. And the community celebrated around the creation of an LWR Mission Quilt at congregations around the U.S. For all these communities I give thanks.
I will be back around my family again soon for Thanksgiving — I can only hope my aunt has enough corn pudding ready — and will have an opportunity to practice gratitude for these communities all over again. For all the communities that have supported you in your life I give thanks, because it’s through all of our communities that we are joined together in this great work of seeing that God’s table is set for so many living in poverty around the world.
For what communities are you grateful for this year, and what communities will your gratitude support?
“We are grounded in profound thankfulness for God’s gracious, self-giving love for all humankind, revealed in the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ. Gratitude marks the way we relate to one another and to all creation. Though our experiences vary, we view community as a gift. We give thanks for our wondrous diversity. We celebrate being alive. We abound with joy, hopefulness, hospitality and deep appreciation for the gift of one another (Psalm 136).”