By The Revd Dr Peter Sanlon
In our journey to heaven we are to be thankful for the world we pass through. One of the great prayers of the Book of Common Prayer (there are many!) is the General Thanksgiving. In it we pray, ‘We bless thee for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life.’
The future city is of greater worth than anything this world affords; but the ‘blessings of this life’ are real, many and to be given thanks for. That which is not of ultimate worth, still has worth.
Hobbies, sport, sleep, family, friendship, art, technology, novels, politics, food, business, music, journalism, engineering … the list of areas of life that can be engaged in with thanks to God is almost infinite.
The words used to describe that which we are to think about in Phil.4:8 are ones normally applied to pagan art and sport. The things we do in life ‘giving thanks to God’ (Col.3:17) can be anything that flow from his generous creation. The best and most impressive of all that is done in this life will be brought into the new creation (Rev.21:26).
There is a danger of worldliness (1 Jn.2:15) – as Augustine put it, ‘Many forget they are journeying through this world and settle down in it.’ The healthy attitude is that we eagerly journey towards heaven, but have genuine thankfulness and appreciation for the good gifts God gives us along the way.
Psychologists have long known that the activities we turn to in hobbies and play – our non structured time – reveal much about who we are. This is because the unique way each person engages with creation flows from the their personal shaping by God’s Spirit in creation. We no more expect all people to enjoy the same blessing in this life, than we expect all to look the same as us. So one of the benefits of the doctrine of creation is the permissive freedom of people to be varied and different.
As pilgrims who love God’s Word we have a unique map to life. That Word itself urges us to be thankful for all the blessings of creation – which means we appreciate and benefit from the wisdom, service and input from those who do not yet follow the lamb’s way. We truly have much to give thanks for.
Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: www.emmanuelanglican.uk