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Pastor Glenn McDonald: A Question About Thanks

A number of years ago a well-dressed man in his early 30s visited our church on a Sunday morning.

I noticed him in the back of the sanctuary. He seemed shy. He slipped out before the end of the service.

After three or four more Sunday visits, he waited patiently while the sanctuary emptied. He approached me. He introduced himself and asked if I might have time to talk with him during the week. “Of course,” I answered. “I have a question I hope you can help me with,” he said. And we set a date and time to get together.

I wondered what question he might be pondering. Pastors typically get to address a great many interesting issues.

How much water does it take to be properly baptized: just a splash on the top of the head, or full immersion?

How can God bear all the pain and suffering in the world? Why doesn’t God do something about that?

If there’s only one God, why are there so many religious options out there – Methodists and Muslims and Mormons and Mennonites and everything in between?

Does God care about our pets, and is it possible we’ll see them in heaven?

Does God care about us, and is it possible there really is such a thing as heaven?

When I sat down with the shy, well-dressed man a few days later, he didn’t ask any of those questions. He explained that his young daughter had recently been diagnosed with a serious illness. But her doctor had found it in its early stages. He had acted quickly before it could significantly damage her health.

Now it seemed clear that their wildest hopes had come true. She was going to grow up. She would get to enjoy all the adventures of childhood and the craziness of adolescence.

Maybe she would go to college one day. Perhaps he would walk her down the aisle and gently place her hand into the hand of a handsome young man, and they might have a family of their own. She would work and serve and travel and make mistakes and make amends and make friends and maybe even make a difference in the world.

She was going to live.

Then he said to me, quietly and humbly, “I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude. I know that I need to thank someone. That’s why I’ve been coming to church these past few weeks, for the first time in my life. Here’s what I’d like to ask: Could you please tell me who to thank?

Looking back over 45 years of ministry, that was perhaps the most poignant and memorable conversation I have ever had.

It may be that life’s most important journey is learning who to thank.

And making the discovery that there really is Someone deserving of every expression of gratitude.

May God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless you richly this Thanksgiving.

And may your heart overflow with thanks.

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