I have always delighted in the season of fall! It is the season of new beginnings. It signals cooler weather of warm days and crisp, cool nights and, in many parts of Canada, the beauty of the changing colours of trees in magnificent reds and golds.
It is also the season of Thanksgiving. The harvests are being brought in and stored. Fruits and vegetables have been frozen or canned. Creation has once again provided what we need for our sustenance. What else are we grateful for this year?
Although Thanksgiving focuses on food, it is also a time to reflect with gratitude on all aspects of life. It is easy to be critical and negative about what we don’t have or have lost, especially in a continuing pandemic and in light of the tragedies of fires in British Columbia and northern Ontario. Gratitude is a deliberate choice to continue to see our blessings, even in the midst of tough times, as a gift—and to give thanks. Practicing gratitude is a fundamental spiritual practice. It orients us to the enormous grace of God poured into the world—even in the very midst of disasters or suffering or pain. It opens our hearts to other ways we have been blessed and opens our hearts to ensure others are blessed. Gratitude is part of healing ourselves and the world.
That is why we launched Surprised by the Spirit in the spring. The pandemic has radically affected every aspect of our lives and we often focus on what we have lost during the past 18 months. Surprised by the Spirit is an invitation to ask what surprised you during the pandemic as you learned to worship online; share Bible studies on Zoom; shift outreach to new modes of connecting; and be with one another and your community in new ways.
I have been moved by the responses submitted—poems, hymns, video and reflections that point to God’s grace and to the resilience of our church. (See them at: www.spirit.anglican.ca). There is so much to be thankful for as we are emerging from the pandemic. I give thanks for the creativity of our church as I hear about new ideas in outreach and worship. The Spirit has been surprising us—teaching, guiding, and calling us! We have been blessed even in the midst of a pandemic.
Now is a time to give thanks—and share with others! We give thanks for all we have discovered of God’s presence that we had not seen before—and all we have learned about being church, without our buildings, as we discern our next steps. We give thanks for the widespread provision of vaccinations as we pray for many in the world who do not yet have access, and we advocate for a wider sharing of resources. We give thanks for those on the front lines of health care who serve sacrificially as we pray for their health and well-being. If we have been safe and well, we give thanks for that blessing as we pray for those who have lost homes, livelihoods, and loved ones through COVID-19 or through the extensive fires this summer, and that we share resources to rebuild. We give thanks for the gift of life itself from the Creator, knowing that in life or death, in a pandemic or a forest fire, in good times or in bad we are never separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus! Thanks be to God!