Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost
“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.”
Gratitude is at the core of our identity as the people of God. God has created us and continually provides for us. Even when times get tough in our broken world, when we’re hungry and thirsty and our soul is fainting within us (v. 5), God hears our cries and delivers us. The Israelite people certainly knew their share of troubles – being slaves in Egypt, wandering in the desert for forty years, going into exile, and so on – but yet the Psalms, their prayerbook that gave shape to their life together was filled with prayers of thanksgiving like today’s reading from Psalm 107 that celebrate the goodness and the provision of God.
And yet, gratitude is one of the most difficult virtues for us to cultivate in the Western world. Why is this? Above all, we are extraordinarily wealthy; we have the resources and technologies to take care of almost all our needs, and thus it is easy for us to lose sight of God’s provision. Additionally, we are immersed in a sea of advertising every day that fuels our ingratitude by reminding us of all the things that we don’t have, but that we should want. We also are so far removed from agriculture that we easily lose sight of God’s providing through creation for our most basic need, food.
So what can we, as Westerners, learn about gratitude from the Israelite people of the Old Testament?