Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth.
Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo.
Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning.
-Karl Barth – Church Dogmatics The Doctrine of Reconciliation, Volume 4, Part 1: p.41
We celebrate and live in the grace of our God. When people ask me how I am doing, I often say, “I am floating in the grace of God.” It is a reminder that I can and am instead of being caught up in the many chapters of should that you can gather.
When I was early in my career, I decided I was going to become a competent swimmer. It was something I could do, but not well. I remember going to the YMCA in St. Cloud determined. I was surprised to see one of our Sr. High youth was the lifeguard. I dove in and was determined to figure it out and become a comfortable and long-distance swimmer. After flailing from one end to the other trying to do the American crawl, I was more and more embarrassed. Another lap and I was exhausted. I swam over near the young woman and asked a simple question, “Is there anything I could do to be a better swimmer?” She smiled shyly and then spoke the truth with a gentle and earnest voice, “Remember your body floats.”
I smiled back and wondered, “Could it be that simple?” My working so hard negated the fact that my body floated. When I relaxed a bit and trusted that I could float, I was soon swimming faster and smoother and longer distances. I would need other coaching later, but she was right.
This has become a parable for me as I live out my life and my many callings. Remember you can float in the grace of God.
Whenever we are aware of God’s grace, we can’t help but be aware of gratitude like the great theologian Karl Barth argues in the quote above. Grace provokes a response of gratitude.
This year when you gather with your friends and/or family, invite folks to share something they are thankful for in their life. People will groan, protest, and then start sharing. We have much to be grateful for in the midst of the challenges and beauty of life. Life is hard. Life is beautiful. God is still creating, working to redeem us from our broken-ness and inspiring us to imagine the future God can see and longs to bring into reality like God once brought his Son into our world. God’s work continues in our lives, in our communities, in our country, and in our world. God’s surprising grace keeps working and we get to sing our song of gratitude in response with our whole life and our life together in Christ.
1O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
2Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
3Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
4Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
5Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
6With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can mortals do to me?
7The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals.
9It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
10All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
11They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
12They surrounded me like bees; they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
13I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.
14The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
15There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death.
19Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
20This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.
21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
22The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
28You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
29O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.