Our Souls Are Filled With Love And Gratitude

February 1, 2005

February 2005

Imagine my surprise— my own church’s bulletin describes the United Thank Offering as a “worldwide outreach program”!

The United Thank Offering is not a stewardship campaign or a fundraiser or an outreach program. It is not about you and me raising money. UTO IS about you and me raising awareness of the blessings of God available to us, and building a deeper connection to God through daily thankful prayer.

Yes—the United Thank Offering gives grants. But the outreach grants, the ability to provide means for expanding the mission and ministry of the church and meeting compelling human needs, are the result , not the purpose.The United Thank Offering is both Inreach—a gift to ourselves through daily communication with God, and Outreach—as we understand God’s love in our lives the visible and outward signs of our gratitude fill our blue boxes. These gifts flow out across the world sharing God’s blessings to us with others.

Imagine my surprise— my own church’s Lenten letter speaks of grateful prayer….

“If you are interested in a healthy soul then Lent has some very positive benefits. When Lent is observed carefully three wonderful things happen. We repent. We grow in self discipline. Our souls are filled with love and gratitude.

Repentance is not a popular subject or activity. We don’t like thinking about it, much less doing it. But it is the door we open to experience the grace of God. It’s not that God doesn’t love us absolutely all the time, but that we can’t see that love unless our attitudes and behaviors are those of repentance. The Greek word is epistrophe. The epistrophe was a pole in a Greek race track. The runners ran to it, turned around it, then ran back to the starting line. It is the perfect metaphor. We change our direction and go back to where we started. It is physical. Repentance always calls for action. It may call us to stop doing something. It may call us to start doing something. We do this while asking God’s light to shine on and in our lives.

When we take the action that repentance calls for, God helps us. The action is easier than we anticipate. We feel better. This enables our self discipline to grow because we know there will be a positive outcome when we repent and assume the discipline of doing whatever it is God wants us to do. Life gets better. Our soul has more health. And, we are grateful to God.

Gratitude is the primary sign of being a serious Christian. Some folk think it is some sort of behavior, like not hitting your little sister. But gratitude is the essential sign of the Christian life. First, it is gratitude to God for Easter and the gift of salvation. Then it is gratitude to God for the gift of His presence in our lives. Then it is gratitude to God for the gift of relationships with all of Jesus’ friends. God’s love has only one appropriate response - thank you.

Lent, properly observed with repentance and growth in discipline, ends with a thank you, a glorious thank you on Easter Day.”

The Lenten reflection is by the Rev. Hugh Magers, currently serving as Interim Rector, St Andrew’s, Bryan. He is retired from the Diocese of West Texas.