Thanks Be To God
By Julia Powers
Before beginning this year as one of the 2014-2015 Beecherl-Corrigan Fellows, I hadn’t been around liturgical traditions very much. Now that I have been I’m finding that I thank God more often than before.
We hear the Scriptures read, and we say: “Thanks be to God.” We receive a benediction at the end of a service, and we say: “Thanks be to God.”
Interestingly, thankfulness gets the final word in our Sunday services. But does it get the final word in our lives?
One Wednesday in September, I was plodding painfully through a week of sheer stress. Fortuitously, that night, I went to one of the young adult groups (the Twenties group), and as we prayed compline this passage was read aloud:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Thanks be to God,” we responded.
Saying those four simple words felt like physically breathing a sigh of relief. My shoulders relaxed; a weight lifted. Because Jesus had said come. And I had said thanks.
Other times, it’s not that easy to say thanks to God. Saying those words can feel like breathing a sigh of frustration.
Like when a challenging passage of Scripture is read (about, say, sin or judgment) and, holding back a grimace, we sigh and say, “Thanks be to God…?” Or when we’re in a difficult place personally, maybe without a loved one or without a job, and a holiday called “Thanksgiving” crops up and we want to mutter, “Thanks a lot, God.”
Those responses, too, are legitimate ways of saying “thanks” – not necessarily out of thankfulness for what we’re experiencing but out of thankfulness for the God who’s willing to experience it with us. Saying “thanks,” even when we’re not feeling particularly thankful, teaches us to address ourselves to the God who is always worthy of thanks and praise.
So, wherever we’re at this Thanksgiving, whether breathing a sigh of relief or a sigh of frustration, let’s address ourselves to God.
Jesus will stay say come. May we still say thanks.