“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” 
― Meister Eckhart

For this first series of Table Church gatherings we’re focusing on the ‘flavour’ of each month.  In September it was “beginning”, in October “thanksgiving”.  Don’t worry, I know that many of us might feel thanksgiving is too much to ask right now.  We may be weighed down by anxiety and something close to despair over all that’s unfolding.  Or we may be holding a great grief.  The thanksgiving we reflect on here flows into us through the channel we open for God, the Living Presence in our lives.  Brother David Stendahl-Rast has this to say about it.

I don’t speak of the gift, because not for everything that’s given to you can you really be grateful. You can’t be grateful for war in a given situation, or violence, or sickness, things like that. So, the key, when people ask, “Can you be grateful for everything?” — no, not for everything, but in every moment.

Gathering Prayer
Gracious God,
You are always with us,
loving us,
delighting when we turn to You.
May we feel your Presence.
May our hearts be kindled
as we share this time together,
In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Scripture
1 Thessalonians 5:16 -24 

Background
The letter to the church at Thessalonica is actually the earliest written book in the New Testament.  It is earlier than the all the Gospels with which we may be more familiar.  Probably written around the year CE 50, approximately 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus it tells us what was on the minds of Paul and the earliest Christian communities.  The anticipation of Jesus’ return was front and centre.  From the moment they understood that he had been taken into heaven they began waiting for him to return.  We hear this spoken of as the Second Coming and while some groups remain very focused on this what Paul urged on his community and what remains important is how to live now in a way that is faithful and pleasing to God.

Paul writes to the community he loves from Corinth and he writes to encourage them in day to day living that responds to the gospel, the good news of Jesus with joy, prayer and thankfulness.  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances”.  Remember joy is not the same as happiness which depends on things going well, joy can be present even in the midst of sorrow, like the bright, tiny stars in night’s dark sky.  Prayer can be breathed in any moment.  Thanksgiving is for life rather than for every occurrence in life.

Paul also writes, “don’t quench the Holy Spirit”, which really is as hopeless as trying to flatten waves in the wind.  Let the Spirit move and inspire you.  And let prophets speak, even if what they say seems inconvenient or awkward.  But . . . pay attention to the Spirit and the prophets carefully so that you can discern where any misleading spirits or false prophets may arise.

How this life is lived will be different for each of us and so it is vital to the Christian life that we keep asking ourselves, who am I in response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  How do I rejoice, pray and give thanks?  How do I pay attention?  Asking this and paying attention are themselves ways of prayer.

Finally, Paul reassures us that we don’t do all this alone, because, “the One who calls [you] is faithful” and longs for our wholeness.

Pondering Questions (remember there are no right or wrong answers, this is a conversation)
Paul is writing to a church that feels it’s living in the “in between”.  What stories do you have in your life of living through in-between times?

What stands out for you in today’s reading?

What helps you to rejoice, pray and give thanks?

Praying for self & others:  Intercessory Prayer
After some conversations on these questions take a minute or two to write something that’s weighing on your heart, something you want held in prayer, on your piece of paper.

If there are only two of you, just exchange your papers.  If there are several, put your papers in the middle of the table where each person picks one randomly to take home.  Each day take a moment to just pause and bring the person or place or situation on this prayer to mind, offering them to God’s care, imagining them in God’s Love.  You don’t have to say anything.

Benediction
May [we] draw deep from the wells of the holy
And have the protection and guidance of God
On every path.                                              Jan Richardson

Let us go in peace and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.