A cell phone went off in the middle of the Salem and Bradley Indian Missions (West Michigan Conference) church conference that I was leading a number of years ago. Normally, we would just smile and move on, but retired pastor Joe Sprague was inspired to tell a story about a time before cell phones, the Internet, and even landlines. He said that many years ago the Bradley church itself used to be the telephone.
When there was important information to share, someone would ring the church bell at Bradley Indian Mission. Hearing the bell, people dropped whatever they were doing and began a journey from all directions — from Shelbyville, Gun Lake, Bradley, and Hopkins. Because there were few roads, they would make their way to the church, creating paths through woods, fields, and meadows. Even after the fields had been plowed, new paths would continually appear as the people of God walked. After reaching the church, they not only heard the information but were fed with spiritual food as well. It was that food that nourished them to return by the same paths to spread both the news they heard and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As people of faith, we have a bell to ring and important information to share this week as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because gratefulness lies at the very core of my being. Perhaps it’s because I was born on Thanksgiving Day, and gratefulness is literally in my DNA.
Over the past few weeks, I have been pondering the difference between thanksgiving and gratefulness. On Thanksgiving Day our family has a tradition of going around the table before we eat and sharing those things for which we are thankful. Every year we give thanks for specific blessings such as family, good health, a job, leads on jobs, COBRA health insurance, a car that still runs, supportive friends, a wonderful church family, and opportunities to serve.
Gratefulness, on the other hand, is a state of being that springs from deep in the heart. I am grateful. Gratefulness is a disposition to express gratitude by giving thanks. What is gratefulness?
(continued on Bishop Laurie's blog here)