Have you ever noticed the heading in our church worship bulletin for the part of the service in which we serve communion? It says, “Thanksgiving.” That’s the heading we use throughout the year, and there is never any turkey or mashed potatoes or dressing or pumpkin pie involved….at least, not any time that I know of. Nevertheless, both the communion table at church and the table at home where we gather with our friends and family are places for eucharist, for giving thanks.
Eucharist is a Greek word that means “giving thanks.” When Jesus took the loaf of bread, he eucharistēsas. He gave thanks. In its most literal sense, eucharist means to give thanks for God’s grace. That’s why our prayer at meals is called, “Saying grace.”
Giving thanks is more than just something we do once a year in November, and more than something we do once a month on communion Sundays, or even once a week on Sundays. Giving thanks is for always. Ephesians 5:19-20 says, “Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Giving thanks always and for everything can be hard. We don’t always like the way things are going. We don’t always see things to be thankful for. Sometimes we have to work at it. Sometimes we have to stop and take a minute to find things to be thankful for.
It’s like tidepools. In California, in areas where the coast is rocky, the water has carved out holes in the rock where the water stays even when the tide is out. If you just glance into these pools, you see the anemones and moss, but everything looks still and static. If you sit and watch for a few minutes, you can see more. The anemones move. Tiny crabs hide in the cracks and creep out. There’s lots of life to see, but it takes patience to see it. And it takes practice. The more you look, the more you learn what to look for, and the quicker you see the life in the pool.
Being thankful takes patience and practice, too. The more we try, the easier it becomes to be thankful. It’s worth the effort, because it’s in the thankfulness that we find God’s grace, and in the midst of grace, there is joy. Even the word eucharist has grace and joy in it. The Greek for grace is charis, and the Greek for joy is char. Char is at the center of eu-char-ist. Joy is at the center of giving thanks, maybe because in the process of thanking we are turning toward God and seeing a bit of his glory, his goodness.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
As you gather around the table full of turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and whatever else you like to eat for Thanksgiving, may you know the joy of celebrating the Eucharist with family and friends, of giving thanks to God for his goodness and grace.
Inspired by Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan, 2011)