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How Does Your Faith Express Thanks?


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Question: How does your faith express thanks?

BALPREET SINGH is legal counsel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

Being thankful is an important part of being Sikh. For a Sikh, everything is a gift from God, whether it appears to be pleasure or pain. It’s easy to be thankful for all the “good,” but the Sikh faith believes that even what we perceive as “bad” is worthy of thanks. In the face of suffering, hunger and persecution, Guru Nanak taught that a Sikh should say “and this too is your gift, Lord” because pain acts like a medicine which forces us to refocus and reflect upon what is important in life.

Although Sikhs are taught to live in a constant state of thankfulness, there are of course times when that thankfulness is celebrated and shared with others. Such occasions can be the birth of a child, moving to a new home or during Sikh festivals such as the birth of Guru Nanak which is celebrated in November or Vaisakhi, the harvest festival and founding of the Order of the Khalsa which is celebrated in April. During those times, Sikhs may hold an akhand paath or a continual recitation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib which lasts 48 hours, or invite the Sangat or congregation for a keertan or the singing of verses from the Sikh scripture. All Sikh celebrations conclude with the langar in which all are invited to share a vegetarian meal together.

Sikhs also express thanks by serving others and sharing with the community. Sikhs are taught to give dasvandh or one tenth of their earnings to charitable causes. During celebrations, Sikh Gurdwaras regularly organize blood donor camps and food drives. Even though Thanksgiving is obviously not a traditional Sikh festival, during the Thanksgiving season Sikhs often make food donations and serve meals to those in need. Here in Canada, we have so much to be thankful for, and times like Thanksgiving are an opportunity for all of us to reflect on just how lucky we are and share what we have with others.

ABDUL RASHID is a member of the Ottawa Muslim community, the Christian-Muslim Dialogue and the Capital Region Interfaith Council.

When some one gives us a gift, fulfils one of our needs, shows us love, or provides us with comfort, security or pleasure, in any form or manner, our instinctive reaction is to acknowledge this through an expression of our gratitude.

But who has bestowed on us innumerable gifts? Who gave us intellect and, above all, honoured us with faith and Divine of guidance? Of course, He is Creator, God Almighty.

We can never fully thank our Merciful Creator for His innumerable blessings. The Holy Qur’n tells us: “And He gives you of all that you ask for. And if you count the favours of God, never will you be able to number them” (14: 34).

Gratitude is not passive in nature, as is often mistakenly thought. It begins with recognition of a gift and its value. It is then followed by its intended use. The way to thank God for His gifts is to put each gift to its intended use. To misuse a Divine gift, to ignore it, or not to share it with others will be ingratitude.

To begin with, we should thank Almighty by glorifying and worshiping Him and by following His Guidance. If we are blessed with children, we should thank Him by loving them and teaching them the moral ways both by word and deed. If God has blessed us with ease and wealth, we should thank Him by spending it on righteous causes and by sharing it with those who are in need.

And if find ourselves in difficulties like illness or financial hardship, we should thank God by being patient and by remembering the many blessings we continue to enjoy. To thank God for the free gift of hearing, sight and speech, we should thank God by making their optimum use. The ability to say ‘thank you’ is itself a Divine gift and we should use if often.

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

Your question is worded in an interesting way. The simple answer to “how” our faith expresses thanks is — by saying thank you. But I doubt if that is the answer you are seeking. Perhaps you are interested in the matter of how important is the expression of thanks in our faith. Let’s try approaching your question from that perspective.

Saying thanks, expressing gratitude, showing appreciation, are critical components of the Jewish faith. Every morning, literally the first words we utter are the famous thoughts contained in the Modeh Ani statement, in which we give thanks to God for having restored our soul. These words are taught to children as soon as they are able to speak. In other words, from their earliest years we entrench within the children the sense of gratitude for being alive.

The main daily prayer, recited three times every day, crescendos with an expression of thanks to God for life, for the daily wonders and for the ongoing kindnesses. Whenever we benefit from food or drink, we express thanks to God both before enjoying and afterwards.

It is fair to say that the expression of thanks permeates our faith. It is everywhere, simply because everything we enjoy is cause for gratitude. And it is not just to God that we are obliged to express thanks. The pervasive thanks we extend to God is paradigmatic of the appreciation and thanks that we should extend to everyone who has done a kindness for us.

And these are many. Parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, co-workers, bank tellers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, letter carriers, etc., all do kind things. It does not matter whether they are paid or in other ways responsible to extend the service. Thank you is always in order.

This is a most profound fulfillment of the famous dictate — Love your fellow as you would love yourself. We all like to be acknowledged rather than being ignored or taken for granted. What we like for ourselves we should extend to others. The fuller our gratitude and the expression thereof, the happier will be the environment in which we live.

So, in answer to your question — How does your faith express thanks, the answer is — regularly, sincerely, happily, and enthusiastically.

JACK MCLEAN is a Bahá’í scholar, teacher, essayist and poet published in the fields of spirituality, Bahá’í theology and poetry.

Giving thanks is a spiritual attitude that is prescribed in all the world’s great religions. It is rendering back to God, or to one another, what is freely bestowed as blessing. Giving thanks is closely related to two other higher spiritual virtues---praise and gratitude. Praise and gratitude for the many, inestimable favours of the Almighty, including life itself, are universal among followers of all religions.

There are three ways to give thanks: with the tongue; in the heart; through our deeds. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of today’s Divine Messenger, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), and the authorized interpreter of his father’s teachings, said that verbal thanksgiving is the least effective expression of thanksgiving because the words spoken may not necessarily correspond to the actual feeling of the heart: “One may say thank you a thousand times while the heart remains thankless, ungrateful. Therefore, mere verbal thanksgiving is without effect.” He goes on to say that genuine, spontaneous, heart-felt thanks is real: “But real thankfulness is a cordial giving of thanks from the heart. When man in response to the favors of God manifests susceptibilities of conscience, the heart is happy, the spirit is exhilarated. These spiritual susceptibilities are ideal thanksgiving”.

The third and highest type of thankfulness is not through words or feelings but through deeds: “There is a cordial thanksgiving, too, which expresses itself in the deeds and actions of man when his heart is filled with gratitude. For example, God has conferred upon man the gift of guidance, and in thankfulness for this great gift certain deeds must emanate from him. To express his gratitude for the favors of God man must show forth praiseworthy actions. In response to these bestowals he must render good deeds, be self-sacrificing, loving the servants of God, forfeiting even life for them, showing kindness to all the creatures” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 236).

A special sort of soul-quality is required to give thanks when troubles descend: “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity” (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 284). But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gives a formula that all can practice: “The best way to thank God is to love one another” (Promulgation, p. 468).

KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the centre for Inquiry, Canada’s premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers.

As sure as the leaves change colour, my family has a tradition of making memories on Thanksgiving weekend at my little piece of Heaven in northern Ontario. There is something gratifying about memories, the ones that you can re-live with those you love, in the present, rather than the dusty remembrances from the past.

I cherish our annual hike along back roads that see more moose and bears than cars. We gather leaves that span the autumn spectrum and we carry too many pinecones for the harvest centrepiece. There’s always at least one evening where we sweater-up for the hissing and crackling and smoke-in-your-eye at the fire-pit. Looking up, the young ones remember the Big Dipper, same place as last year. Memories as deep as the universe.

But the big meal is the thing! The cabin is full of commotion. Kids set the table incorrectly, sister or Mom mashes the potatoes, creating their signature lumpy mixture, while Dad carves the best roast turkey we’ve had since last year. Someone is always missing, watching the game no doubt. Dinner is served; let’s pray. Except for me.

Heads bowed, eyes closed; one speaks the ritual thanks to God. I used to listen with disinterest to the words praising Him for our health and safety, and of course the food we are about to eat. I don’t hear their voices anymore. Instead, I think of those who, despite a life of thanking God for their blessings, end up with tragedies no loving being would set upon them.

I look around the table at my clan, one by one. I feel fortunate to gather with them, for the beautiful randomness of life that made us family. Memories to share. Love all around. This is what I am thankful for.

Rev. RICK REED is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.

Expressing thanks is an essential part of the Christian faith. The Bible makes that clear in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

How are we to express our thanks? The Bible points to three big ways. We give thanks to God in our prayers (Ephesians 1:16). We sing our thanks in our songs (Ephesians 5:19-20). We also demonstrate our thanks by how we live (Colossians 3:17).

But there is a deeper kind of “how” question when it comes to thanksgiving. How do we express thanks to God when we don’t feel thankful? Sure, thanksgiving comes easy when things are going well. But what about the times we seem stuck between hard times and heart-breaks? How can we authentically express thanks in those times?

The Bible’s answer is that we express our thanks by faith and through Christ. By faith, we give thanks that God is good even when life isn’t. By faith, we give thanks as an act of defiance against the doubt and darkness that shadows our hearts. By faith, we offer our thanksgiving, believing God will show His faithfulness in ways we can’t yet see.

And the reason we can give thanks by faith is because we bring our thanks to God “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). It’s through Jesus that we’ve come to know God’s love. It’s through Jesus’ death and resurrection that we’ve can be forgiven of our sins and brought back to God. When we offer our thanks through Jesus we are reminded of God’s unfailing love. Through Jesus we have good reason to give thanks at all times.

Thanksgiving may only last a weekend, but for all who’ve experienced new life through Christ, giving thanks is to last a life-time.

Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa.

Many Catholic Christians begin or end the day with a few moments of private prayer at home where we thank God for the wonderful way He has blessed us with many graces, including our family, friends, and especially the gift of faith. A famous piece of advice that I have found personally helpful is to “cultivate an attitude of gratitude”. But every Sunday (and frequently during the week) Catholic Christian parishes celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is also known as the Mass. The word “Eucharist” is a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving”! Every Catholic Mass is a profound act of worship and thanksgiving to God for all His blessings, especially the gift of our redemption by Jesus Christ through the Paschal Mystery of his death on the Cross, his Resurrection and Ascension to heaven. The Mass is the most profound expression of our faith because in it we not only give God the praise and worship we rightfully owe Him as our loving Creator, but also because we encounter God truly present in the Holy Eucharist – body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholic Christians believe that Jesus Christ is actually present in the Eucharist and this privileged encounter with our Lord transforms us and strengthens us to be witnesses to God’s love and goodness in the world. The Jesuit priest and theologian Robert Taft remarked: “The sacrament does not simply stand for something, it brings it about; the sign and the reality converge”. Although we give thanks to God in our private prayers, especially when we ‘count our blessings’, the Mass is the definitive act of worship and thanksgiving for Catholic Christians.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/R...press+thanks/5524279/story.html#ixzz1aJEwrS4A


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