The title of this post is from The Book of Common Prayer 1979, "Prayers of the People" Form II.
There really is a blank to fill in there. I'm sure many people offer thanksgivings in silence, which is fine. But I think that there is so much inspiration and authenticity that flow into a congregation when people speak up to thank God for blessings received.
Today at our 10 a.m. service, there were two wonderful testimonies to gratitude.
First, a group of South Sudanese neighbors came to thank our parish for helping them charter a bus to get their community to an important vote for their homeland. They stood up during the parish announcements to give thanks to God and our congregation, and to share what the referendum meant to them. "We thought that sending a thank you letter was not enough," one said.
Then, a long time parish family asked for a chance to speak. Through tears, the mom shared how her teenage son (an impressively tall acolyte, by the way), who grew up with a number of behavioral challenges and institutional placements, had worked his way back into mainstream high school. The family brought a cake and other refreshments for the celebration after the service, and invited everybody to share their joy.
There was plenty of applause and the social time after the service was boisterous.
I think that sincere and significant thanksgivings like these break down the image of church as a club for people who already "have it all together." Rather, the church is a place where challenged lives can find Christ's help: divine grace from Word and Sacrament, humanly ministered by other challenged people. With Christ's help, there can be transformation.
Sometimes, that transformation is made known only when someone makes bold to speak up and fill in the blank, "Thank you, God, for _____."