I often joke that the South Dakota state motto ought to be “All Four Seasons Every Day.” We didn’t quite manage it this week, but we got all four seasons into the week. On Tuesday we had warm summer weather. On Wednesday it was blustery and windy like fall. Thursday dawned with the snow and cold of winter. And by Saturday it was warm and sunny and the snow was melting like spring. The official pledge to the South Dakota flag is: “I pledge loyalty and support to the flag and state of South Dakota, land of sunshine, land of infinite variety.” I think that the reference is only partially to the weather. It also speaks of the many different landscapes of the state that stretches from the black hills through the badlands to the prairies. We also have a huge amount of variety in wildlife in our state.

But when it comes to variety, whether we are talking about weather or landscapes or animals or people, we have to admit that there are other places where there is a lot of variety. I’m thinking of Tokyo this week. A super typhoon, an earthquake, floods, landslides, a tornado and a volcanic eruption all on the same day is quite a bit of natural upheaval for one place.

Give what we’ve been reading on the Internet it seems like South Dakota might be a better place to be than Tokyo this week. Of course we wouldn’t know what to do with all of the people if everyone thought that. Part of what makes South Dakota so wonderful is that it doesn’t have the crowds that normally are a part of everyday life in the streets of Tokyo.

Yesterday was a day of delights for us. Our grandson reached the three month mark and the day seemed worthy of celebration. It also was the 36th anniversary of the day we brought his mother home. We celebrated by going out for coffee and a pastry - a kind of father-daughter date. When she was younger we used to hop on our bicycles and go out for breakfast. She and I were early risers while her brother and mother often liked to sleep in a bit. It was fun to just sit and enjoy my daughter and grandson. Their visit has been a special treasure. I jokingly asked her if I could take my grandson to church for show and tell during the children’s moments. I actually am the one who is presenting the forming our faith portion of the service this morning and the main focus will be on expressing our gratitude to God and living lives of thanksgiving, but it will be fun to have our daughter and grandson come to church and visit the church family.

I am deeply aware of how much for which I have to be grateful these days. I am a very fortunate person. Life’s journey is never over smooth roads all of he time and we have faced a few challenges along the way, but we have been extremely fortunate. I grew up in a loving and supportive family that provided nurture and freedom to grow and explore my own path in life. I was granted the independence to pursue my own interests and education and received the support necessary to complete my college and graduate school years without interruption. I met the love of my life early in my life and we have been granted a long and loving marriage. We have been blessed with children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and great nieces and great nephews. We have served caring and supportive congregations and have always enjoyed the community of the church surrounding us wherever we have journeyed. Our lives have been enriched by the experiences of travel and the joys of hosting guests from around the world. Despite one major health scare, we have enjoyed excellent health. The list of things for which I am grateful goes on and on and on.

Being fortunate and feeling blessed, however, caries with it responsibility. We have been given joy that we might share joy. We have been given voice that we might speak for those whose concerns are not heard. We have been given community that we might welcome those who have been cast aside by society. I try to carefully insert a brief comment about the joys of growing old together into each wedding service I lead. I know that the young couple who were married in our church yesterday don’t really know what I mean, but I hope that they will look back on their wedding day and remember that I told them they have much to look forward to as the years pass. I hope that I have helped them see that a marriage is so much more than the day of the celebration of the wedding. I hope that they remember that the community of the church is a place where they can turn for support when the going gets rough. At the wedding I read part of John 15 to them including Jesus’ words to his disciples: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

Joy really is that way. We don’t own it. We don’t control it. It comes from outside of ourselves and flows through us in ways that make it easy to share with others. It is a gift of God that dwells in us. The passage I read also speaks of the kind of love that empowers self sacrifice and true generosity. I have no way of knowing what the couple will remember from their wedding. Certainly there were lots of trappings that were memorable. Beautiful dresses, glorious music, a large number of family and friends gathered for celebration. In the midst of all of that a few words from me are a pretty small part of the day. But I hope that the words I chose were meaningful to them and that they will remember the tone, if not the content of what I said.

Just as I reminded them to never to forget to be grateful for what God has done for them, I hope I never forget to express my gratitude. For there is much for which to be grateful.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!