I give thanks this day to God for each of you. I’m holding here a favorite piece of pottery. It’s made by a Mississippi potter and he called it a “thank you” bowl design. It made me think of my own grandfather, who, at the dinner table would use the phrase, “thank you for the potatoes.” What he meant was “pass me the potatoes please.” “Thank you for the chicken.” What he meant was “pass me the chicken.” His saying was lovely. He was giving thanks in anticipation of receiving.
Today, I am particularly thankful for the North Carolina Annual Conference and for the life that we share, for the lively and invigorating gathering which we shared last week in Greenville. I’m grateful for all of those who worked in anticipation of Annual Conference, for Becky Biegger, with whom I work in the Episcopal office day by day and for all the staff, the committees, the choirs, the musicians, the speakers, the committee members, the task force members and the chairs – all the people who together, pool their efforts and their wisdom that we might have a productive conference. And I’m thankful for each of you who participated in person and for those who joined the conference through the web.
Among our many thanks to one another was a joyful thank you to Rhems United Methodist Church in New Bern. We awarded the Saints of God Award to Rhems for the vibrant ministry, a ministry of engagement with the Burmese refugee community in New Bern. Over 47 million people in our world are displaced through war, violence, famine, national disaster. On Thursday of this week, June 20, we will mark World Refugee Day. Today we give thanks for every congregation in our annual conference who are engaged in ministry those who have been displaced.
I invite you to be particularly alert in your own community to refugees who are among you. Let us go from strength to strength as we befriend refugee persons in our community, remembering that our Lord, Jesus Christ, as a very small child, was himself a refugee, fleeing to Egypt. As we move into this new conference year, may our gratitude, OUR gratitude, flow out in life-giving mission to those around us.