6 Jan 2018

The Ministry of Thanks

"Thank You"
Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by jen collins)
Source: Flickr
            In one of the hospital visits I made this week, a nurse was performing her ministry while the patient, my parishioner, slept. As she stepped back, I said "Thank you - for all you do." She looked at me, a bit confused. Then she regained herself, and admitted "Wow - I don't hear that often. Thanks!"
            I continued that I, as a regular hospital visitor, saw how much work and care and attention that nurses and others on the medical team regularly gave, how they deserved thanks for it.
            We had a long conversation about the ministry of thanks. This nurse, it turns out, is a person of faith, working in a medical centre where spiritual care is a part of the holistic approach to health. She said she was going to take the story - of being thanked by a visiting priest - to her staff meeting; that's how pleasing and unusual it was.
            After my visit, I remember thinking how sad it was that a "thank you" was a rarity for her, and for her colleagues.
            As I was reflecting on that, I watched our snow removal folks pull into the church parking lot. We don't often see them - but they treat us very well, and we're pleased with their work. If it snows, they clear. As they were refilling the sand/salt bin, I popped my head out the door. On seeing me, they asked if everything was alright. "Definitely!" I replied, "I wanted to say thanks - you've been doing a great job!"
            Again, there was surprise. They were grateful, and smiled and thanked me, and I went quickly back inside (where it wasn't -20*).  And as they left the parking lot they beeped the horn, smiled and waved.
            It was so simple, and yet it clearly made a difference - it brightened someone's day. For me, I saw it as an invitation to live out Paul's commentary about building one another up in the faith. It wasn't meant as anything but as an expression of MY faith.
            I know the value of supporting one another in the church, and in the faith community. But that support doesn't need to end where our parish lines are drawn, or where our membership lists conclude. In both experiences, I was a visible member of the Christian community, offering gratitude for someone else's efforts to make the world a better place. These folks are living out their ministry, and we're all the better for it.
            Imagine what might happen if we all took the opportunity to appreciate the people around us, celebrating their ministries to the community. Imagine how much happier the world might be if we all engaged in an intentional ministry of thanks. Imagine how much more Christian we could ourselves become, searching for ways to hold one another up before God - not to convert others, but to transform our hearts into fields of gratefulness.

            Imagine what's possible - with a simple, heart-felt expression of thanks. And now go find a way to make that possibility a reality!

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