Ephesians 1:15-23 (NRSV)
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
In the Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul writes that he does not cease to give thanks for the faith of the followers in Ephesus. He gives thanks for their faith and their love toward all the saints.
I wonder what it would be like for pastors and church leaders to give thanks without ceasing for the faith of their parishioners. I suspect we do pray for our congregations. I suspect we even give thanks for them now and then, especially when they remember to be nice to us. I suspect we remember that giving thanks is a key prayer practice that opens our eyes to the heart enlightened, as Paul says, and to God's gift of hope. But I wonder if we've looked individuals in the eye and said: "I want you to know that I'm praying for you and giving thanks for your faith and love for God."
I haven't, but I will. It will be my Thanksgiving practice this year to remember to say, as I pass people in the hall or bump into them at a meeting, "I just want you to know that I give thanks each morning for your faith and love for God." This is different from just thanking someone for a job well done. Giving thanks for someone's faithfulness means giving thanks for the love for God that dwells in their hearts.
In giving thanks for faithfulness, we give thanks for the courage to step outside of the boxes of lives and look for a new way of being. We give thanks for willingness to stand on the journey of faith and look again at God's transforming presence. We give thanks for the community of believers and remember, with St. Paul, that faithfulness is a beacon of light in our challenging world.
So, while I can't see your face, I have heard of you and your faith, just as St. Paul heard of those in Ephesus. I give ceaseless thanks for your faith and love for God. We could not be the body of Christ without you.
May your season of Thanksgiving be blessed.
O Gracious One, giver of life and love, bless us with thankful hearts and guide us on this journey of thanksgiving for all that is and all that will be. Amen.
a spiritual director and Pastor of Spiritual Life for First Church West Hartford