Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for and to rejoice in all of God’s good gifts to us. And for me, whenever I think of God’s gifts, I pause to give thanks for all of my teachers, both those who stood physically in front of me and for all those who wrote great books that shaped me in ways I can’t begin to enumerate. And so today, I thought it would be good for us to read a section from one of my book-writing teachers. The following two paragraphs are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book, Life Together: A Discussion of Christian Fellowship.
Since Thanksgiving is upon us, and since the main theses of these paragraphs is thanksgiving, I invite you to feast on what Bonhoeffer says here. He writes:
“Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship and because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning-brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Christ Jesus? Thus, the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together—the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.
“In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”*
Have a great Thanksgiving and rejoice, for God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus—especially in the community that we have at River’s Edge! Happiest Thanksgiving.
*Life Together was translated by John W. Doberstein and published by Harper and Row,
New York and Evanston, 1954. My copy sold new for $2.95. The quotes are from pages 28-29.