Written by Fred Gee
The Facebook tagline of one of my daughter’s good friends is: “Hope could have been your child.” Hope was this friend’s daughter who died a few years ago of inoperable brain cancer at age 12. Her death has spawned a variety of awareness activities and fundraisers for childhood cancer research in their church and community, including the now annual Run for Hope in which my daughter, granddaughters, and grandson participate.
“Hope could have been your child” is a haunting, insightful reminder of the familiar phrase: “There but for the grace of God go I.” “Hope could have been your child” is a prescient reminder that, given different circumstances, we could have found ourselves in the shoes of those who suffer personal loss; are struck by illness or disaster; or are victimized by violence, abuse, and racism. Those less-fortunate persons could have been us, and being reminded of our undeserved good fortune should move us to compassion and generosity of spirit and resources toward those who have not been so fortunate.
I once preached a Thanksgiving sermon the theme of which was being careful when and how we say “Thank God!” Most often we utter that exclamation when we or a loved one is spared the misfortune or tragedy which strikes or claims the life of some one else. That’s quite OK, but must not be the end of our thankfulness. That should be just the beginning of how we respond to the misfortune of those others. Like the members of Grace Lutheran Church and the community of Woodstock, Illinois, our response to the misfortune of others, like the tragic death of Hope, should be a generous outpouring of sympathy, support, money, and commitment of time, talent, and energy to help diminish the pain, heal the loss, and do what we can to restore wholeness and give hope.
How appropriate that we have chosen Thanksgiving Sunday as the day to culminate our month of stewardship emphasis and dedicate and celebrate our pledges to underwrite the ministries of First Christian Church. On this Thanksgiving and Dedication Sunday may we at First Christian Church be moved to faithfulness and generosity in all ways by the reminder not only that “Hope could have been your child,” but that we have been abundantly blessed by the gracious gifts of God and the ministries of this church.
As the Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth (loosely paraphrased): “Let the abundant grace of God and thankfulness in your life move you to be generous in giving others reason to be thankful.” (2 Cor. 9:11)