Monday, November 19, 2012

It is Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, Norman Rockwell
   It is the Lord's Supper. It is breaking bread. It is the divine liturgy, or mass, or the service of table. It is the sacrament of holy communion. It is known by all these names but none is more ancient than the name Eucharist. It is a Greek word that literally means thanksgiving. This sacrament, passed down directly from Jesus Christ to his followers and referenced throughout the Gospels as the center of worship for Christians, was named early on for the central prayer of thanksgiving, or eucharistia. The Eucharist is and means thanksgiving.
   Beyond a variety of names this sign-act commanded by Jesus had nearly as many metaphors to describe it in the early church. They wanted to explain what the experience of breaking bread together meant to them. The New Testament contains at least six of their attempts: communion fellowship, remembering the historical act, sacrifice, mystery, the work of the Holy Spirit, and thanksgiving. James White, noted United Methodist professor of worship, places thanksgiving at the top of the list. He writes, "It is hard to imagine thanksgiving as absent from the joyful action that bubbled over as the Jerusalem church broke bread with glad and generous hearts" (in Acts 2:46). In fact, Jesus lived out this thanksgiving with every meal he shared with his friends and followers. Thanksgiving is at the center of the Gospel.
   Which brings us to this week. What we do this week, many of us separated by miles but all still gathered around tables, is the very stuff of the Gospel. Thanksgiving is the good news. We sit and are thankful. We are nourished by what, for the most part, others have gathered and prepared. We suspend rivalries and enmity and celebrate. We slow down long enough to appreciate what we have and from where we have come. All of this is Thanksgiving and all of this is the life of faith. This is what it means to do life together as Christians. 
   You are in my prayers this week. Wherever you are, you are loved. You are forgiven. You are blessed and you are called to be a blessing. May these days find thanksgiving at their center. 
   Grace and Peace, Scott

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