This reflection by David Boelzner was part of the combined-church Thanksgiving service on November 20 at Jahnke Road Baptist Church.
THE THANKSGIVING OF A GRUMP
I am a grump. Like most people I take great delight in my family and friends, but my routine encounters with the generality of the human race pretty persistently make me grumpy.
I read the newspaper faithfully every morning, and that does not tend to make one hopeful about what will be in the paper the next morning — makes me grumpy. (I hasten to add that these remarks were formulated before the election outcome was known.)
Then I drive 25 minutes to work on the highways of this city. That really makes me grumpy – any vestige of hope that people will act sensibly and carefully, much less with actual consideration for others, is dashed by that experience.
I thought this perhaps should disqualify me from offering any remarks on thanksgiving. But I persevered and paged through some scripture passages on thanksgiving and something clicked when I read this passage from Psalm 33:
Give thanks to the Lord on the lyre
Play to him on the 10-stringed harp
Sing for him a new song
Play with all your skill as you acclaim him.
The references to music reminded me of one aspect of human endeavor that does bring my pleasure – we’re all musicians in my family. But in particular the line about playing with all your skill resonated, because there are moments when humans do play with all their skill, and when they do, they rise above ordinary “human-ness” – the pettiness, the stupidity and cupidity, the self-indulgence, and of course plenty of real human evil, to achieve moments of great beauty, transcending human experience.
The musical genius J.S. Bach inscribed many of his scores with the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria” (to God alone be the glory) – Bach understood that the ability to transcend ordinary human capabilities through real excellence, which he had in abundance, was indeed a gift from God.
These transcendent moments bring me great joy, but I’m not thinking only of artistic beauty – there are flashes of spiritual beauty as well.
I think of the women of our church who consistently manufacture receptions, occasion after occasion, transforming ordinary events into something a bit extra-ordinary
I think of the wonderful altar flower arrangements, which a few of our own folks create. I confess occasionally losing the thread of a sermon when I look up at those splendid creations.
And I think of people who minister tirelessly to parishioners who are not my favorite people; while I congratulate myself on merely being polite, these folks are reaching out in true Christian love.
These moments when humans play with all their skill, becoming – even if just for the tiniest fractions of time – godly, are what I’m thankful for. Amazingly, God sees this potential in all of us, of course, which is what makes him God. I see it only occasionally, which is why I’m just a grump.
But I am a thankful grump, and if there is anyone else out there who feels grumpy at times, I pray for you to experience your version of these transcendent moments.