For many of us who built homes in Nicaragua last week with Habitat for Humanity, there were limits to what we could say in Spanish. We admired the ability of our leaders and a few other members of our St. Mark’s team who could speak the language very well, but we had to rely on smiles, hand gestures, and very simple words and phrases that we had learned earlier in life. For all of us, though, there was one word which communicated the most important message of all: “Gracias!” We said it, over and over again, to all the amazing people who welcomed us, cared for us, taught us, worked beside us, housed us, fed us, transported us, inspired us, and blessed us in more ways than we could ever recount.
Looking back, if we had to choose only one word to use each day, it would have been that simple, elegant one which is related to the words “grace” and “gratitude” in our own language. It reminds me of the wisdom shared by Meister Eckhart in the 13th century, who wrote: “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice.”
Here at St. Mark’s, we will take time between now and Thanksgiving to offer our own “thank you” to God for all the gifts of grace that we receive so freely. In worship, in adult forums, and in the personal testimonies we share, we will say “gracias” over and over again. We will even have the opportunity to name our reasons for thanksgiving in a video that will be shared with the congregation.
In all of this, I am reminded of a woman I saw on my first day in Nicaragua. She was kneeling in a side chapel of the main cathedral in Managua. Her hands were lifted up and they stayed that way for the whole time that I watched her. If I could choose an image to hold up for all us as we enter into these days of thanksgiving, it would be this one of a person lost in wonder, love, and praise.
Pastor Jan Ruud