God acts. We thank. We respond.

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

If you can get past the ever growing aisles of Christmas decorations and listen through the carols that have already snuck into our radios, you can see Thanksgiving is all around us. School children are creating construction paper buckle hats and feather headdresses, moms are posting “thanksgiving challenges” on their newsfeeds, and turkeys everywhere are running for cover. It’s a wonderful time of year as we get to witness again and again our collective heart turn toward gratitude for all that we have.

But the cynical side of me always has one question when bubbly instagrams of warm fires and mocha-pumpkin-peppermint cream lattes are posted with the hashtag #gratitude. I always wonder: So What?

So our lives are so blessed that fires are for novelty (not survival) and coffees that cost $4 are the norm, so what? So we’ve been blessed with cupboards full of food and families full of joy; What difference does it make?

I guess my big problem is that sometimes we treat giving thanks like it’s the end, and that just doesn’t mesh with my theology. You see, the Biblical witness of gratitude never ends with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, rather, is the opposite. It’s the starting point for a new kind of life.

There’s a passage from Colossians that comes to mind. Paul wrote:

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear one another and… forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-15)

We are God’s chosen ones. God chose us. God chooses you. So like the text ends: be thankful! But life as one of God’s holy and beloved children isn’t as simple as just being thankful. It calls for a response. Since God chose us we have to live with compassion and kindness. We are not permitted to simply be thankful for the forgiveness we’ve received from Jesus, we are obligated to forgive others as well. Here’s the pattern of our lives: God acts. We thank. We respond. Thanksgiving isn’t the end, what we do with our thankful heart is.

So as thanksgiving approaches, don’t simply post a picture of your gas gauge #tankful, but share some gas with someone in need. Don’t just say grace at your table, but grace another person’s table with God’s bounty. Don’t just be grateful, but live graciously. Because God has made us, chosen us, forgiven us, and blessed us, and, because of what God has done, we will boldly respond.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.