One of the great prayers of the Church includes the phrase, “We give you thanks, not as we ought but as we are able, that you have held us worthy to minister before you . . .” The prayer itself is an ancient eucharistic prayer–literally, a prayer of thanksgiving. The eucharist is nothing other than a weekly act of giving thanks–a great way to start the week.
It’s also a great way to start a term as bishop. As I approach the three-month mark, gratitude continues to be the dominant feeling–not only gratitude for the immense grace and goodwill I’ve received personally, but deep gratitude to God for the life and ministry that abound throughout the Nebraska Synod.
The recent round of “Mission Celebrations” provided opportunity to hear stories from congregations all over the synod–and more than stories of ministry, excitement about ministry. Even as we all try to adjust to the incredible changes (and pace of change) that swirl around us, most of our congregations seem to be more focused on engaging in mission than in ensuring survival. True, some of the stories we heard were about congregations hoping to grow numerically. But the overwhelming majority were about connecting with the community, meeting needs, sharing the Gospel, providing hospitality, deepening faith and serving human need. I find that a great testament to faith–that our call isn’t only inward, but outward (and not only outward, but inward–several stories were about enriching worship and study for the sake of deepening faith–about the respiration of inspiration, breathing the Spirit in and out).
The world in which we live is indeed changing. But the human longing for meaning, connection with God, and community remain constant. As I give thanks for the myriad blessings I enjoy, I give particular thanks, not as I ought, but as I am able, for being part of a body that strives to connect with those fundamental longings, for God’s sake.
For what are you grateful in the Body of Christ where you live?