"Thanksgiving for Blessings Given" - A Reflection from the Rt. Rev. David M. Reed
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,* for his mercy endures for ever” (Psalms 136:1)
Dear Friends in Christ,
I can’t say I wasn’t warned. People who have walked this unknown, sometimes strange road before me said, “There will be ups and downs. It might get weird. And time is really going to fly by.”
It’s true. A year ago, January 1 seemed impossibly far off. Even six months ago, retirement was a not totally welcome reality, and I found myself grieving often what I would be leaving behind (have I mentioned that I love what I do?). Then, while on vacation in August (so, like yesterday), I realized this was the last summer vacation I would ever anticipate like a school kid. I have no illusions that retirement will be like an endless summer—I know too many retired people who are as busy as ever, but in different ways. And many of our churches would fall apart if not for retired people who give so generously of their time, talents and wisdom. But still, what becomes of the more-or-less reliable rhythm and structure of my life, when I’m not going to work, not traveling to your churches on Sunday, and not looking forward to vacation? What am I supposed to do now? Be now?
“Rejoice in the Lord always,” St. Paul says. “Again, I will say, Rejoice!” And “Give thanks to the Lord in all things.” Jesus says (pretty often), “Be not anxious,” and “Fear not.” The Psalmist calls us to join with the whole creation in joyfully praising and glorifying God.
What am I supposed to do now? Just what we are invited to do all the time, and maybe especially in times of uncertainty, in seasons of endings and beginnings: Be thankful…rejoice…trust in the goodness and loving-kindness of God. The Word is continually trying to move us from darkness to light, from anxiety to peace, from alienation to reconciliation, from death to life. And what we hear in Scripture—Jesus, Paul, the Psalmist, all the rest—are not some chirpy, smiley-faced, feel-good voices, but the power of God speaking like thunder, cracking open the hardness of life, pouring out grace in graceless times, wiping away tears and grime and bringing laughter, bearing up the walking wounded (and we’re all walking wounded at one time or another). “His mercy…his loving-kindness…endures forever.” Gratitude for grace received—thanksgiving for blessings given—softens our hearts and turns us from darkness to light. Grace evokes gratitude, and gratitude makes us more gracious and grace-filled people. In the enduring, living hope we have received in Christ, and fed by his life in the Eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”), what else can we do, but rejoice and be glad and give thanks? In all things.
Time has flown by, and now the diocesan farewell parties are done (thank you all!), and December 1 and the Investiture of my friend and colleague in ministry, Bishop David G. Read, is just days away. I will gladly hand over the diocesan crozier to him that evening, not because I’ve grown tired of it, but because this season is drawing to a graceful close, and the Diocese has chosen a good and faithful servant to be your shepherd. I will rejoice, give thanks and sing with him and with you, thankful for all the blessings of this life.
My parents, Bill and Olive, now among the company of the saints in light, taught their six children to be thankful, to be mindful of our blessings and also of our responsibility. From an early age, I was taught to say, “Thank you,” whatever the occasion, whatever the food on my plate might be (good practice for 40 years of church potlucks!) I learned to always, always say to my friends’ parents when leaving their homes, “Thank you. I had a nice time.”
This Thanksgiving, I think my heart may be more full than my belly—full of gratitude for all good gifts, for all the blessings of family, friends, country; and gratitude for you, the clergy and people of the Diocese of West Texas, and for the honor and adventure of having lived and served among you as bishop, brother, and fellow child of God. Thank you. I’m still having a nice time.
And for all that has been, and all that is, and all that shall be, we give you thanks, O Lord. Happy Thanksgiving!
Love in Christ,
+David M. Reed
The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed
X Bishop of West Texas