“Attitude of gratitude” is a cliché we hear and perhaps a gauge for measuring our responses. As we face the elections, there may be gratitude for a fine opponents that forces someone to define themselves more clearly but often the gratitude is masked by the competition. Halloween is coming next week and we are creatively thinking of ways to show gratitude for our children. Thanksgiving is the big holiday in November when we remember with gratitude those who helped us come thus far. We gather in families, share food and fellowship, even in the midst of disease. Gratitude is a word with the same root as “grace,” receiving a blessing that perhaps is undeserved and often under appreciated. I suspect grace appears in the face of trials. It makes me think of James, that we just studied, telling us to consider it joy when we encounter trials for at those times we grow, develop perseverance and cry out to God for wisdom.
One of the big stories in the New Testament is the story of Saul, a focused defender of his faith, searching out heretics for death. Traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus in the early days of Christianity, he encounters a bright light, is blinded, and hears the voice of Jesus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Meanwhile in Damascus, Ananais, an obedient follower of “the Way” is in prayer. One man persecuting while one man prays. Both trying to be obedient. God steps into both lives, confronting one about his misdirection and presenting the other with a frightening task, talk to Saul the persecutor. Neither man is particularly encountered because of their wonderfulness and yet God graciously steps into both lives and history is changed. Saul could have continued in his hate. Ananais could have clung to fear. But both responded to God’s initiative in their lives.
“Grace Alone” is the reformation tenant that we have a God who comes to us in our sinfulness, in our blindness, in our everyday lives because that is his character, not because of our wonderfulness, or our good works. We are saved by his grace. So as we look out on our world of politics, disease, economic challenge, global tensions, environmental changes…and masking, may we reflect an attitude of gratitude where we find ourselves today for we are being accompanied by a God of grace who walks with us through the challenges to a better future. Blessings.