September 08, 2016
He was too young to understand it all, but there he stood, with hands cupped to receive the tiny piece of bread I'd torn from the loaf. He was just too young. There was no way he understood all the nuances of this ancient and Holy meal, yet he said it again as he dipped his bread in the cup. It was a simple "thank you" spoken from the grateful lips of a child. Yet it was the gratitude in his eyes that made me realize that understanding it all didn't matter; this was and has always been a matter of the heart, a matter of the soul. Holy Communion is indeed "soul food," and the only appropriate response to such a gift of grace is "thank you," said in the simple humility of a child-like faith.
I stood at the door leading to the narthex of church, doing my best to greet each person who had shown up for worship with a word of thanksgiving for their presence. The words I used were simple enough, "Thank you for worshipping with us today," or something to that effect. I was indeed thankful they had taken the time to come.
I was doing okay until a woman walked up and thanked me for an amazing worship experience that day. The next day, a trusted friend shared with me that the woman had come to her feeling puzzled over how I'd reacted to her compliment. "He must have looked down when you said it," my friend recounted her response to her. I was just learning how to receive a compliment, and was obviously not doing very well at it.
Learning to receive the graceful words of “thank-you” is just as important as saying “thank you.” It doesn't matter if you understand all the nuances. It is a matter of the heart, a matter of the soul.
Therefore, I write all this as I struggle to find words adequate enough to express my heart-felt thanks to the people of the Kentucky/Red Bird Annual Conferences for your gifts of simple graces during my move to serve as your bishop. It is my prayer that throughout the journey ahead, with all its twists and turns, all its struggles, joys, trials, possibilities and hopes, that we would be reminded of God's great gift of grace flowing from the unmatchable love of Jesus Christ. I pray this love will cause us to pause each day and speak words of thanksgiving for a gift we can never earn. I know I'll never completely understand such a love. Therefore, in child-like faith and humility, I simply say, “Thank You.”
Such a simple phrase, ample example of
Compassionate spirit-filled passion beyond
Measure a treasure most needed.
Received in hearts of deep gratitude conceived
In the soul of the giver making journey worth
Taking together all the more sweeter.
It sounds so meek, yet possesses the power
To strengthen weak hearts with joy like few
Words can. Indeed food for the soul.
I pray the words thank you will never become
Common place, the smiling face of both giver
And receiver is quite a priceless gift.
By Leonard Fairley
Bishop Leonard Fairley