Community and Gratitude

Today Seth Haines engaged his blogging followers with an invitation to discuss ‘community,’ that often ambiguous word we all toss about, but inwardly wrestle with its intended meaning in the reality of our relationships. I encourage you to check out his site–listen to what ideas are rattling around about “Christian community” and maybe even consider adding a thought or two of your own. It’s a necessary conversation to help us all press into the “what ought to be” and prevent us from growing apathetic in a vital aspect of expressing our faith.

To introduce his invitation, Seth posted this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It
is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the
real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may
appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to
God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling
his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not
been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its
temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what
is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship
increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”
~Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together

 I am huge Bonhoeffer fan and I’m really thankful Seth exercised my memory of this quote…and also that the quote prompted transformative thinking. I’ve been mulling on it all day, affirming both the necessity of gratitude and my neglect of it. It is true, the Christian community is to be received with thanksgiving. What blessings we find when we let gratitude cloud our perspective of the others in our lives–those with whom God has graciously gifted us.
Have I said lately how thankful I am for the people-gifts in my life?
  • I am thankful for the friend who invited me to breakfast yesterday and shared not only a delicious meal, but also opened up her heart to trust me with transparency and vulnerability.
  • My heart smiled when I received a text of concern from a friend who noticed we were missing from church on Sunday.
  • The mail brought me a handwritten (Wow) note of affection from a friend who has moved away, but whose friendship remains.
  • I opened my email to a video from a far-away friend sharing with me the precious babbling of her baby.
  • Today I was especially grateful for the wise and humble teaching of a professor, who doesn’t assume that seminary students are beyond constant need of encouragement.
  • Tomorrow I will enjoy a cup of coffee with a treasured friend who I know is carving out time for me from a very full calendar.
  • There is joy in the invitation to celebrate in a friends’s upcoming wedding,to celebrate with a young friend in her first fashion show, to pray for a friend in need of healing and empowerment for ministry, and to bring a word of encouragement to a group of women who are embarking on a new journey of life together. To be invited in to other’s lives in this way brings such joy.
  • Tonight as we sat at the dinner table, my husband gave thanks for the food, but my heart would know no deficit of provision if our plates had been empty; the man and the boy filled the table with love, acceptance, and stories of God’s goodness.

To be fair, Christian community has not always been easy for me. Sometimes it seems fake, shallow, inadequate. Thusly, because I often am all those things. Yet the Christ in me…in you, calls us to more. If nothing more, we should be thankful for the call to be more. I know it’s true that we can spend days without end chronicling the failures of ‘community,’ but why? Why begin with critique?

Gratitude, as Bonhoeffer exhorts, is such a sweeter starting spot.

For whom are you thankful? Have you told them? Are you letting gratitude echo in your relationships? If not, then it might just be time to start doing some shout outs of thanksgiving.

2 thoughts on “Community and Gratitude

  1. So grateful for this perspective, Brenda, and to have found your blog. When I had jury duty a few months ago, I took paper with me to write a long overdue note of thanks to a woman who profoundly impacted my life and faith, whom I’ve lost touch with through moves and busyness. Jury duty, somehow, ended quickly, and the paper got burried in a pile. Just this afternoon I unearthed it. I almost tucked it away for another day, but you’ve reminded me of the value of giving thanks, not just thinking it. So… thank you!

    • Annie, I’m glad you found your way here! Personal notes of thanks are so impacting. It is such a mystery why we neglect them like we do. I have some unwritten notes long overdo. You bring up a valuable aspect of gratitude: it’s never too late to begin. Thanks for your contribution. I look forward to future conversations with you.

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