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A Grateful Heart

The Rev. Dr. William Rich
October 9, 2019

A Grateful Heart

Thou that hast giv’n so much to me,

Give one thing more, a grateful heart.

George Herbert (1593-1633)


I was raised to write thank-you notes.  I suppose like most youngsters, I resisted doing so.  But as I grew older, I came slowly to a startling awareness.  In writing the thank-you note, my gratitude for the gift grew. 


Every Sunday, the Book of Common Prayer provides us with ways to speak our thanks to God – giving us, as it were, a way to speak a weekly solemn thank-you note.  In fact, the central prayer of the Eucharist is called the Great Thanksgiving, for in it we give thanks that God has not left us alone and lost in this broken world, but has come to dwell with us, loved us, and healed our brokenness through Jesus Christ our Savior. 


In Morning Prayer, our longest single prayer is called the General Thanksgiving.  In it we give thanks, as we do in the Eucharist, for God’s “inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.”  But in that elegant prayer, we also thank God “for all thy goodness and loving-kindness…for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life.” (BCP, p. 58) 


David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and advocate for interfaith dialogue, says this about gratitude.  “Our mind can recognize a gift as gift, but only our heart can rise to gratefulness.” (Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer, chapter three)


Following Brother David’s words, we might say that praying the set prayers of thanks in the Eucharist or Morning Prayer are ways that our mind recognizes the gifts of God.  And that is a very good thing to do. But might I venture that it is only when we offer our more particular thanks that our hearts rise to full gratefulness?  An analogy: no matter how lovely the words of a store-bought thank-you card, there is nothing quite as heart-lifting as a personal thank-you note from someone who gives his/her whole heart to crafting words of thanks.


I have noticed over the years that we Episcopalians seem to find it much easier to speak words of intercession for those in need than to speak our words of thanks for our blessings.  I wonder how our lives might change if we covenanted each Sunday in church to say thank-you to God for at least one particular blessing from the past week?  Brother David seems to think it would transform us for joy.  As he says, “The root of joy is gratefulness….  It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”


This Sunday I promise you I will be offering my gratefulness to God for at least one blessing I want to remember from this week.  Will you join me and offer your own gratefulness?  Who knows - maybe it will bring us joy?


With gratitude to God for you and our whole Trinity community,



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