Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.-Ephesians 1:3-6 NRSV
It’s Thanksgiving, and in typical fashion, I’m going to roll out the “what are you thankful for” question. Personally, I’m thankful for lots of things. I have a great family. I love what I do and the church I serve. My health is good. The Packers lost on my birthday last Sunday, and the Bears got a win. What else could I ask for?
In all seriousness, I want to say that I’m thankful for the holy catholic church, the universal church that is Christ’s body on earth. I’m thankful to God, as Paul was thankful, that we were chosen to be his holy and blameless people, destined for adoption because of the love of Christ freely bestowed upon us . I’m thankful that I get to be part of the people and story of divine grace.
Of course, that story isn’t always neat and without complication. In fact, it is downright messy. Yet, in the mess, we discover our high calling to be the people where, as theologian Stanley Hauerwas put it, “God is forming a family out of strangers” (riffing on Ephesians 2:13 that “in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”). In fact, here is the full text of that quote from Hauerwas:
The most interesting, creative, political solutions we Christians have to offer our troubled society are not new laws, advice to Congress, or increased funding for social programs—although we may find ourselves supporting such national efforts. The most creative social strategy we have to offer is the church. Here we show the world a manner of life the world can never achieve through social coercion or governmental action. We serve the world by showing it something that it is not, namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers… So the gospel begins … with the pledge that, if we offer ourselves to a truthful story and the community formed by listening to and enacting that story in the church, we will be transformed into people more significant than we could ever have been on our own—Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, pp. 82–83.
This is who we are in Christ: a people unlike any other. The first truly transnational, trans-racial, multicultural, multilingual human society of men, women, and children who are called to be one despite our many differences. Our unity isn’t an erasure of who God has made us to be, or where he has placed us in the world, particular societies, and cultures, but instead a transcendence of those differences through our shared identity as children of God being conformed to the image of the Son.
We were once strangers, and now we are friends. We were once hostile to one another, and through the work of the Spirit, the opportunity exists to live in peace. In a world of masters and slaves, powerful and weak, dominant and dominated, and winners and losers, we are one before a Lord who shows true power, and that power is shown in his love that took him to a cross.
If there is anything to be thankful for, and I do hope you have a long list, this, above all, needs to top it. Not only that, this insight needs to inform our every act and thought. Living in this way, we become a thankful people who radiate joy in all circumstances. Thanks be to God!