“What are you thankful for this year?”

It’s the question my mother would ask each of us to answer before we could dig in to the Thanksgiving meal we had smelled cooking all day.

Most years I hated that question. Many Thanksgivings I found it hard to come up with an answer. For many reasons it was just not easy. Generally, I would try and mumble “the macaroni and cheese,” before being told that was not good enough. I then would come up with something that sufficed –– whether it was true or not.

The cornbread WAS waiting, after all.

After this particularly hard year, I can imagine that answering this question could be difficult for many of us. Between the division that has come to a head in our world, COVID-19, and the general weariness that we’re all feeling, it may be hard to come up with what we’re thankful for.

Yet, today, I don’t have a problem answering it. When Heather, the kids, and I gather for our small meal on Thursday, my answer is easily that I am thankful for you.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul says:

 I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy.  I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now.  I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:4-6)

I can truly say that I understand what Paul was saying to that church that he loved. When you took a chance on me last November and called me to be your pastor, none of us could have imagined the journey ahead of us in our first year together. It certainly has been one for the record books.

Yet, like Paul, I stand thankful for you. This year you have risen to the occasion at hand and been faithful to the calling we have to come together as a church. Not only have you continued to give of your tithes and offerings to support the work of our church in the community, but you’ve also donated toward care packages, supported our shut-ins, and continued to be patient as we’ve had to move online and have restrictions for in-person gatherings.

I know that this year has not been easy for us as a church and I hate it. Regardless of how much we’ve had to change, I don’t relish any of it. Like many of you, I would love for us to return to potlucks, worship services where we can pass the peace of Christ through handshakes, and the much-loved game nights of the past. Yet, we know that we are not at a place where we can do that with the full knowledge that we’re keeping everyone safe. As Christians, called to love our neighbors, it is best to err on the side of caution for now –– and I am thankful for the ways that you all have been willing to join with me in that difficult endeavor.

No matter where you gather this year for Thanksgiving, or who you gather (or don’t) gather with, know that there is one person who is joyfully thanking God for you at a dinner table. Know that I believe that the good work is not complete and that the best is still yet to be for us all. Know that I am thankful to be your pastor.

So, what am I thankful for this year?

Easy: you!