Christian practice is grounded in Christian faith. Faith leads to faithfulness; belief leads to action. Among essential elements of this practice are gratitude, humility, and wonder.
The Christian disciple must be ever grateful for all that God has done in his life. Contained in the First Article of the Creed and an essential part of the Christian confession is that God has made me and all things. In The Small Catechism Luther explains that God gives us all we possess and our very lives. For this gift of life, for being in the world, and for that which sustains it we are to offer up praise and thanksgiving.
So the Christian offers up thanksgiving in gratitude for the bounty of God has given to him. Gratitude is a recognition that we neither created ourselves or provided for ourselves out of our own resources. In fact, we have provided nothing for ourselves that does not ultimately come from the creative activity of God.
Along with gratitude we are to bear ourselves in the world with humility. Humility is related to gratitude in that humility is a recognition that all we are and all we have comes from God. To know this evokes gratitude. Pride does not thrive with this awareness. It is at its foundation a pretension of deity and coaxes us into the delusion that we may break moral boundaries set by God for our welfare. Pride would replace God with self. In a taunt against the king of Babylon, the prophet Isaiah writes of the king’s pride, “I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14: 14b ESV) The king’s punishment is sure, “But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.” (Isaiah 14: 15 ESV)
With gratitude we understand the important distinction between Creator and creature. We recognize the chasm between ourselves and the One who made all things. Our awareness leads to our humility. We know our neediness, and how it is met by a gracious God.
Among our neighbors we acknowledge that though we may have many gifts, they are not meant for boasting but for serving. Christ Himself is Son of God and yet he humbles Himself for service to the human race, that is, for our salvation. In Philippians Paul advises the community to humility using the humility of Christ as the rationale for his appeal. (Philippians 2)
Along with gratitude and humility comes wonder. To wonder at the splendor, variety, and beauty of the universe does not dissipate its mystery. Analysis of our world is not a mystery crusher, but may even be a method of increasing wonder. God will not be put under a microscope or be observed through the lens of a telescope. He speaks to us on His own terms. He reveals Himself as He desires, but always for our welfare. Though some theological knowledge can be known by rational argument and logic, we know of the Holy Trinity and our salvation only through revelation
Wonder at God’s creation leads to praise and thanksgiving to God and compels us to humility at our smallness in the face of the divine. “It is he who made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalm 100: 3b ESV)
When we witness to others, we may have the opportunity to hold up the majesty and mystery of God. We are called to do such with humility. Being committed to this perspective we shall be both effective and faithful to the Lord.
Michael G. Tavella
February 26, 2021