Giving Thanks

“What if you woke up today with only the things you gave thanks to God for yesterday?”

The Rev. Mary Balfour Dunlap, Associate Rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Southern Pines, NC, began her sermon this morning with this quote and question. Her insightful sermon was a reflection on the psalm appointed for today, Psalm 107:1-9, 43, which begins, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures for ever,” as well as the Gospel lesson for the day, Luke 12:13-21, about the foolish man who stores up treasures for himself but is not rich toward God.

What if you woke up today with only the things you gave thanks to God for yesterday?

Coming home for a time while we’ve been serving as Episcopal Volunteers in Mission has given me an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve been grateful for while worshipping in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and back at home in the Episcopal Church.

It has been a privilege to worship with our sisters and brothers in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. I’ve written about some of the gifts of that experience in a few other posts, Crying in Church, Meditating with My Eyes Open, and Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise.

While we’ve been home, it’s been a gift to worship with familiar words, to sing hymns to familiar tunes, and today, it was a gift to participate in a baptism and to renew our baptismal covenant.

In South Africa, we got to participate in some baptisms, which was great. But the Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s prayer book does not have the Baptismal Covenant. And I’ve missed it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Baptismal Covenant, it is this series of questions and responses made by the people being baptized and the congregation. It’s a statement of our belief in the triune God, expressed in the words of the Creed, and the ways we intend to live our beliefs.

CelebrantDo you believe in God the Father?
PeopleI believe in God, the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth.
CelebrantDo you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
PeopleI believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
    He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
        and born of the Virgin Mary.
    He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
        was crucified, died, and was buried.
    He descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again.
    He ascended into heaven,
        and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
CelebrantDo you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
PeopleI believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic Church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting.
CelebrantWill you continue in the apostles’ teaching and 
fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the 
prayers?
PeopleI will, with God’s help.
CelebrantWill you persevere in resisting evil, and , whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
PeopleI will, with God’s help.
CelebrantWill you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?
PeopleI will, with God’s help.
CelebrantWill you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?
PeopleI will, with God’s help.
CelebrantWill you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
being?
PeopleI will, with God’s help.

I’ve missed using these words in church. I’ve missed the public recitation of these promises as part of the community of faith. I’ve even missed being confronted with my need to recommit to these promises that I experience every time we say the baptismal covenant. Although I’ve made these promises so many times, there’s always at least one where I think, Oh yeah, that.

Absence from this liturgy has made me even more grateful that I am part of a church that has formed me as a disciple, a servant of God, a follower of Jesus Christ in part by reminding me over and over again that we trust in the triune God and, with God’s help, our life is to be lived out in these ways. In a world where we are tempted to define ourselves in terms of what we own, or what we like or dislike, instead the church teaches that we are, with God’s help, people who practice particular virtues and live particular verbs.

I am so grateful.

For Episcopalians especially, (but open to anyone’s thoughts), is there one of these questions and responses that you find especially helpful, meaningful, important?

9 thoughts on “Giving Thanks

  1. Thanks Amy. I haven’t been been partaking in this part of your ministry in a while. I needed this message and refresher.

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  2. Thank you Amy, It was a gift to receive this post. I am always taken with ‘Seek to serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.’ For me, this is the essence of dignity and peace in our world. Loving your neighbor can be so easy in most cases and yet, so difficult in others. My inner motto is, If you can’t beat them, pray for them.’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All of them remind me of why the Lord put me here. I have to keep tuned into how and what I say in answering these question. I like all those verses because they bring me back to reality. I return to St. Philips on 9/4 for another 3 month stay.

    Godspeed Peter

    On Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 5:01 PM Amy and Joe Go to Africa wrote:

    > Amy Richter posted: ” “What if you woke up today with only the things you > gave thanks to God for yesterday?” The Rev. Mary Balfour Dunlap, Associate > Rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Southern Pines, NC, began her sermon > this morning with this quote and question. Her i” >

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  4. Dear Amy and Joe: The Reverend Sharline Fulton and I were “good-mouthing” you today. I gave her your most recent book to read. What are Sharline and I thankful for? The two of you and the faithful and fun times we had at St. Andrew’s plus all the good writing and other stuff you’ve done since

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How wonderful! Thank you so much, Bob, and thank you both for all the ways you have formed, encouraged, and inspired us! I love “good-mouthing”! That sounds worthy of a discipline all its own—how many people can I good-mouth today? Love and joy to you!

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