First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers… –Romans 1:1-15
These words of Paul written to the congregation in Rome express beautifully how it is that pastors often feel toward their congregations. Pastors consider how the congregation has grown in faith and love for the Lord. We think about the accomplishments that God has worked through us— bringing the congregation strength, viability and vitality.
But even more, pastors thank God for their congregation’s deep piety, desire to worship God with reverence and respect, commitment to prayer, and love and care for one another, for the neighborhood and community, and for the world! We pastors do indeed mention you in our prayers without ceasing!
And while I write this with a great sense of gratitude and appreciation for all of our congregations and every member of the Body of Christ, I also want to encourage each of you to see this Season of Lent as a time, not just for inner reflection and growth, but also for reflection upon the many gifts and blessings which God showers upon us, even in the most difficult times of life. Home, family, job, neighbors, fellow church-members—all are cause for deep and abiding gratitude and thankfulness.
While “thanksgiving” may not be thought of as a traditional Lenten discipline, it might very well be a healing and life-giving pursuit as we move toward our observance of the Great and Holy Week. Spend time giving thanks to God, in prayer. Spend time saying thank you to parents, children, co-workers, church leaders, Sunday School teachers—everyone who impacts your life.
I have this dream of coming to church some Sunday during Lent, noticing folks all over the place—after worship, during fellowship, before Sunday School—thanking one another for being there, and being who they are. Wouldn’t the congregation that has gratitude and thankfulness at its heart—and expresses it openly—be special?
Almighty God, we give you thanks for all your gifts and blessings—but especially for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Taken from Wendel, David, From Ashes to Easter, Ashes Lenten Devotional Booklet, North American Lutheran Church.