For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
-1 Corinthians 11:23-25 (NRSV)
Long before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth and celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, and long before Abraham Lincoln declared a Thanksgiving holiday in order to try and facilitate a drawing together of the Northern and Southern states following the Civil War, and long before Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for our national celebration of Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November, people of faith have known what it is to “give thanks.”
At the center of both the Hebrew faith tradition that is formative for our Christian tradition and at the center of our Christian faith is the idea that we are invited, encouraged and, in some cases, commanded to offer our gifts, praise and thanksgiving to God. Take a few moments to read the Psalms and you will find countless offerings of thanksgiving to God. Spend a few minutes reading the letters of the Apostle Paul, and you will find peppered throughout the pages words of thanksgiving and praise.
In recent years those specializing in the study of health and wellness have determined that “gratitude” can transform our hearts and our lives. Taking a few moments at the beginning or the ending of a day to reflect on your life and count your blessings, or list those things for which you are grateful can lift your spirits, stave off depression, ease an angry heart and propel you toward altruistic living.
As Christians we have as the central liturgical action of our worship the “Eucharist,” a Greek word that means “thanks.” The first action of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion is found in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, the first mention of this last meal of Jesus with his disciples in all of scripture. In later years the church titled this portion of our remembrance, “The Great Thanksgiving.” So, “giving thanks,” is part of our DNA. This activity of giving thanks to God is something that keeps us both humble and proud: Humble in that we realize that all we have comes from God who is within us, between us and beyond us and proud in that we belong to God and are God’s children.
As you gather around your Thanksgiving table this week, I hope you will remember how important it is for us to live a life of deep gratitude and then commit to spending a few moments each day in praise and thanksgiving to God for all the gifts you have received. I believe that simple action will transform you, living in ways you cannot even imagine. Come to think of it, that would be something to give thanks for, wouldn’t it?
How can I say thanks enough for all the gifts you have given to me, O God? So, I ask that you received my humble thanks knowing that I will overlook so much of what you have offered. Receive my thanks, O Tender God, such as it is. Amen.
P.S. Don’t forget. This Sunday, November 29 marks the 1st Sunday of Advent. Why not challenge yourself to make worship a central part of our weekly living by being in worship each Sunday of Advent. It can change your life.