Well, folks. Here I am, fresh back from a visit to North Carolina. I had passed through NC a couple of years ago en route to visit my cousin in Venice, FL, but hung my hat there for only about 4 hours in a Red Roof Inn to catch my wind for the next 12 hours of driving. This trip was quite different.
It will be no surprise to anyone reading this that I am a tri-state girl... born in the Garden State and residing for the last 26 years in the Empire State. I am accustomed to moving fast, trying to think fast and generally operating in a pressure cooker.
The trip to North Carolina reminded me of the joys that can come from a crock pot. Put in your ingredients, cut the heat on low and just let it do its work.
So, what does this have to do with Church???? It has to do with one of the parts in the liturgy associated with the Deacon: the Prayers of the People. OK.... let me invite you onto the caboose of the train of my thought.
We all do the Prayers of the People.... every Eucharist. In Morning and Evening prayer intercessions fall under the section labeled "The Prayers" which begin with the Lord's Prayer, go into the Suffrages (generic POP) and individual intentions. In Compline (probably my favorite personal devotional setting) there are intercessions after some collects and prayers. We always "pray for our own needs and the needs of others". ALWAYS. Officially and unofficially.
We send God a bunch of Post-It notes to the effect: Just a reminder about this meeting, this country, this issue. The wish list is long, the names of those near and dear to us can be long indeed. We can go on and on about what we and others need, about the status of the government, the world, the Church universal, the sick, the needy, the departed.
There is another category for our prayers. Thanksgivings.
Haven't we been blessed? Haven't we known love, friendship, good will, redemption, contentment..... even for a fleeting moment? Why, then do we shy away from publically saying Thank you?
This was brought home to me on my trip. I was in a Food Lion, a CVS and several convenience stores during the trip. In each case I would be engrossed in my tendency to comparison shop, looking back and forth across the sections of (let's say) preserves and I would hear the voice of a young man who was stocking the shelves behind me say "And how you doin' today, Ma'am?". Who was HE talking to I initially thought. Well, darned if it wasn't me. 'Fine, thanks. And you?" "Oh, real good, thanks. Did ya find everything you are lookin' for? Let me know if I can help ya at all".
That took me aback. And he would help me, happily, unperturbed that I had interrupted him from doing his stocking. "Will that be all for you today, Hun?" was the question at the register. Complete strangers, passing in the street would say "Hey there" or "How ya'all doin'". There was a standard for hospitality, for graciousness, for simple kindness. And you know somethin'? I WAS impressed, I AM grateful.
With my vivid imagination, I could hear Jesus behind those passersby, clerks and cashiers? Over the Deli counter? Waiting tables across from the Tiki bar in Oriental, NC? In the hair preparations aisle in CVS? Yes. Yes I could. In a part of the country where people DO talk about religion and politics, where it is obvious they were trying to apply their Sunday principles to their daily lives.
Now, it struck me.... an ordained icon of servanthood and prophesy in the Church..... what could I do up here to bring some of this kind of Southern comfort home, plant it, nurture it and watch it grow?
I can encourage all of us to pay attention to our prayers, public and private. Before beginning the service on Sunday, gather your thoughts and gather your gratitude. Then, if you notice that the wish list has been long during POP and you could hear a pin drop during the "thanksgivings" moment...... break the silence.
Say thank you, even for one thing. Some time during the week, contact the person or persons in charge of the POP and take a couple of those names off the prayer side and move them to the thanksgiving side for their recovery or improvement.
Way early on I was taught (it rings in my ears still) to say "Thank you" for any gift given. And parents STILL teach their kids ('cause I overhear it all the time: 'Kimberley, did you say thank you?' or 'Dylan, say thank you to the nice lady' or 'And what do you say when someone gives you something?') to say thank you... yet somewhere there is a disconnect.
How far does this simple courtesy go? God knows, but I venture it's a long way. It costs nothing to smile and look at someone, to say thank you for a service rendered or a gift given. You needn't be a certain age, sex, income bracket, education level, or parish committee chair to offer to God your thanks. More thanks than we ordinarily offer, for the extraordinary life and resources and blessings we are showered with daily, hourly, moment to moment. Thanks indeed. Let's be generous with our gratitude and be all the better for it.
For now, for then, for tomorrow and whatever it may hold, Thanks be to God