Dear Friends in Christ,
One of the spiritual writers and teachers that influenced Martin Luther a great deal was Meister Eckhart, a Dominican theologian and mystic who was born in 1260. Speaking about prayer, Meister Eckhart once said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘Thank you’, that would be enough.”
As we enter the month of November, I find myself thinking about the act of giving thanks and the gifts that come to us when we do so.
Giving thanks is connected to the grateful realization that we are not here in the world on our own. Our daily existence can sometimes feel like an exhausting marathon where our survival is all up to us. We can quickly begin to feel lonely and overwhelmed when it seems that we are traveling through life alone. When we pray thank you, we are opening our eyes and hearts again to the blessed truth that God walks with us in every part of our journey. We are never alone; God’s strength and grace are always moving through us and with us.
Giving thanks is also a celebration that we have just been blessed and enlivened in a very particular way. “Thank you for protecting me during my surgery today.” “Thank you for helping my family work through this difficult time.” “Thank you for Mt. Rainier and the delight that it is bringing to my eyes right now.” “Thank you for this paycheck and the way it supports my household.”
Without a doubt, life takes us through exhausting and numbing moments. We can begin to think that pain and disappointment are all that we can expect. Giving thanks, however, is stopping to notice and savor the particular tastes and delights with which God surprises us along the way. As Luther would express it, giving thanks reminds us that God is with us and for us and, therefore, taking us towards a place of deeper blessing, no matter what the difficulties of the present moment are.
As I think about giving thanks, I find myself feeling very thankful for all of you in the Southwestern Washington Synod. There are so many delightful things you do as you carry out your ministries. You serve daily as leaders in our congregations; you sing in beautiful choirs; you play instruments; you study the Bible together; you teach our children in engaging and creative ways; you care for one another; you make quilts and build houses; you gather for thoughtful conversations and decision-making; you prepare the church for worship; you serve our neighbors’ needs, both here and around the world; you care for the planet.
And that’s not all. Seven days a week you are out in the world living generously and caringly as followers of Christ. Your example and strength bring encouragement and joy to me.
We are never alone. God walks with us. We also walk with each other as God’s children, gathered in this community of our Synod. I give thanks to God and I give thanks to you as, together, we bring God’s presence and love to the world.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Rick Jaech