‘ … in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus …’
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
As we prayerfully live these days between Ascension and Pentecost, and tentatively move forward from this time of lockdown into whatever the next season holds, this letter comes with continued thanks for all the ways people are being bearers of Jesus Christ’s light and hope in so many different contexts.
When Paul urges the Christians in Thessalonica to give thanks in everything, he was most certainly not unaware of pain and struggle. Paul himself was no stranger to suffering, not least imprisonment, and it seems that the Christians in Thessalonica were experiencing persecution. Yet, because of the unchanging love and mercy of God and their hope in Jesus Christ, Paul encourages them to be thankful.
That spirit of thankfulness is something we see even now in our Christian brothers and sisters in India. As they grieve the loss of family members and friends, and rather like the writers of the psalms cry out ‘how long oh Lord’ and pour out their questions and longings to God in a spirit of lament, so too they are living the ‘and yet’ of hope in Jesus Christ. Even amid the turbulence, uncertainty and fear in the face of a virulent strain of Covid-19, they are clinging fast to the love of God and the truth that the hope and life they have in Christ is stronger than even death itself. So they continue to give thanks to God and even send messages of thanks to us for our prayers.
In this country, July 4 has been marked as a national Thank You day, but we don’t want to wait until then as there have already been a number of conversations about how as followers of Jesus Christ we can be catalysts for thankfulness in our local contexts, and that is not in opposition to us also creating spaces and opportunities for people to lament. Aching hearts can still be thankful. Christ is risen and ascended and the darkness will not overcome the light.
In these days of looking back and looking forward can we be those who encourage that thankfulness which Paul speaks of, not only in our worshipping communities but across our wider communities and among the people and places of our daily lives?
To that end, I am delighted to share with you a very simple offer which has emerged through conversations with Katherine Clamp, Communications Officer, and Jo Wetherall Growing Faith and Spirituality Officer, which was discussed last week at a meeting of the Area Deans. It is the offer of beautiful postcards, posters and social media images, which you and those in your worshipping communities and contexts can use to express a personal Thank You to someone. The designs can be seen here.
Of course, any of us can use our own notes and cards to express thanks, but these diocesan cards will enable each individual Thank You to be seen as part of something larger and connected, which stems from our rootedness in the love and hope of Jesus Christ, with the hope that givers and receivers of cards might glimpse something of that.
In the coming days it will be possible for you to either order postcards or download and print them locally, including local information or contact details Please visit the website for more details. And it goes without saying that I hope people will share pictures and stories of how the wave of Thanksgiving ripples across the diocese.
Bishop Robert joins with me in expressing our thanks and assuring you of our continued prayers.