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Thanking God for Bach and Paper

November 22, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NRSV)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Focus

When we share our thanks together, we help others to grow in gratitude even as they also help us. In this week set apart for giving thanks, don’t keep your gratitude to yourself. Let others know what you thank God for. And let their expressions of thanks help you to grow in gratitude.

Devotion

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I shared some memories of the Thanksgiving Eve service at Irvine Presbyterian Church. Today, I’d like to share a couple more.

One of the special things we did during this service was to set aside ten minutes for worshipers to share things for which they were grateful with the congregation. A couple of our staff members would be equipped with microphones, and they’d roam about in the sanctuary, giving everyone the chance to share their thanksgivings out loud.

One year, a man said, “I thank God for Johann Sebastian Bach.” Obviously, he was a lover of Bach’s music. As I heard him thank God for Bach, I thought to myself, “You know, I love Bach’s music. But it never occurred to me to thank God for him.” So, in that moment, for the first time in life, I thanked God for Johann Sebastian Bach (who was, by the way, a brother in Christ).

Something like this would happen in every one of our Thanksgiving Eve services. Somebody would thank God for something for which I was also thankful, but had never bothered to express my gratitude to God. The sharing of thanks with others instructed and inspired me to be more grateful and thoughtful.

Kara shares her thanks at the Irvine Presbyterian Church Thanksgiving Eve service.

One of my all-time favorite moments came when my daughter, Kara, who was about five years old at the time, said loudly into the microphone, “I thank God for paper.” When everybody laughed, Kara was crushed. She hadn’t meant her word of thanks as a joke. She was completely serious. After the service, Linda and I explained to her that people were not laughing at her. They were laughing because what she had said was sweet and oh so age-appropriate. Kara explained with great earnestness why she was thankful for paper. Because of paper she could draw, write, read books, and so forth. Paper was a big deal to her. That’s why she was thankful for it. (In the photo, that’s Kara sharing, but she’s about ten years old.)

Once again, I thought about how much paper mattered in my life. I should note that this was before my life was mostly all digital. I still bought paper books, printed out my sermons on paper, read a material newspaper, and carried a physical Daytimer calendar. Paper was a crucial element of my life, yet I had never once thought to thank God for it. (I’m thinking that now I should thank God for silicon, from which microchips are made. Today, that’s where my books, sermons, newspapers, and calendar live . . . in a microchip-based digital world.)

In this week set apart for giving thanks, let me encourage you to find or make a place of shared gratitude. What you share will inspire others, and what they share will inspire you. Who knows? You might end up feeling thankful for Bach or paper.

Reflect

Can you think of a time when somebody’s expression of thanks to God help you to grow in your own gratitude?

Are there things that really matter in your life for which you have never thanked the Lord?

Do you have a context during this week in which to share your gratitude with others and to hear what they’re thankful for?

Act

Sometime this week, make sure to take time with others to share what you’re thankful for. See if this experience widens and deepens your gratitude.

Pray

Gracious God, while I’m thinking of it, I do want to thank you for Johann Sebastian Bach and his music. His example reminds me to do everything in life for your glory, just as he did.

I also thank you for paper. It still matters. But I guess I should also thank you for silicon and microchips. Thanks too for those who take material elements and turn them into marvelous tools. It’s so easy for me to take for granted the things that make my life easier and that help me to work more efficiently. (Oh, I guess I should also thank you for Zoom. This technology has allowed me to flourish in my work even in the midst of a pandemic. Thank you.)

Thank you, Lord, for the gifts of fellowship, for the opportunity for your people to share thanks together. Help us, Lord, to do this more often, to inspire and instruct each other as we bear witness to that for which we are grateful.

All glory, thanks, and praise be to you, gracious God! Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Week of Thanksgiving: Be Thankful in All Circumstances


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