Sacred Music Sunday: For the Beauty of the Earth
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Gratitude is both a simple and a difficult topic. It’s simple, in that we’ve been taught since childhood to say “thank you” when someone does something nice for us or gives us something. It’s complicated in that when things are going badly it can be hard to find things to be thankful for. It’s extra complicated in the era of social media because expressing gratitude for one’s good fortune can come across as bragging or rubbing it in the faces of those who are less fortunate.
I think the scripture passage above is instructive on how one should express gratitude. Giving thanks is lumped in the same list as praying. When we pray, Jesus taught that we should do it in private and not on the street corner, and that if we do it on the street corner, we have our reward. (see Matthew 6:5-6) When we express our gratitude, we should do likewise. If someone does something nice for you, personally tell them what it means. If you’re grateful that your spouse brought you a bouquet of roses, say a heartfelt thank you; there’s no need to tell your entire Twitter following.
Just as prayers in a public setting like a church meeting are different than personal prayers, expressions of gratitude in a communal setting should be different from those in a personal setting. I really love the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth to get at this point. When I was in high school, my choir sang the John Rutter arrangement of this hymn, and I like the tune much better than the one in our hymnal.
The choral setting for this hymn fits nicely with group expressions of gratitude. We don’t all have a nice house, a good job, a supportive spouse, or any other number of things that someone would feel fortunate to have. But we all live on this beautiful earth and experience the love of God. And that’s something worthy of joining together to #givethanks.