“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
To be grateful or thankful seems at times in short supply in my life. For one thing I feel a certain degree of entitlement regarding so many things. I can easily see life not so much as a gift, but as something I deserve. Gratefulness or thankfulness calls me to acknowledge that I have been dependent upon others, that others have done something for me, and that they were of importance in some way to my life. Reliance or dependence upon others causes me to feel weak and vulnerable and those are not feelings I necessarily enjoy. Gratefulness reminds me that the resources to sustain and celebrate life don’t originate with me, but with someone else.
Therefore, thankfulness is something I need to practice. The apostle Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica are not only a good reminder, but also more than just a nice suggestion. The words “give thanks” are a translation of the Greek verb “eucharisteo”. It is made in the form of a command with ongoing force and it is for every follower of Jesus, and not just some. Paul makes it clear that there is no circumstance in life that falls outside the command to give thanks. Followers of Jesus are to give thanks in everything. This implies that one of the marks of those who follow Jesus is an attitude and response of gratefulness in all circumstance. Each and every situation in which we find ourselves provides a context for thankfulness. Some of those situations leave little earthly merit for which to be thankful. But whether the circumstances are good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, we are called to give thanks. This is not necessarily easy.
This became clear to me as I was driving my car today late for an appointment. I found myself stuck behind a big truck and then at a long signal waiting for my turn to go. All I seemed to care about was how late I was and the waiting didn’t help. I was not grateful for the opportunity to wait, but rather impatient and frustrated with the situation. As I sat at the signal I remembered the command “in everything give thanks”. I began to pray and ask for eyes to see the good in waiting that I was currently missing. I didn’t see a shooting star, burning bush, a parting of the waters, or anything else. What I did experience was a greater awareness of God’s presence in that moment and His presence with me guiding, loving and caring for me is something for which I can always be grateful. Those types of circumstances provide further opportunity to practice thankfulness. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is appropriate and needed in my life.
As I consider the Greek word eucharisteo, give thanks, I am reminded that we derive our word Eucharist, or the Lord’s supper, from this Greek word. Jesus took the bread and cup in the last supper, gave thanks and gave it to His disciples saying this is my body and blood. In one sense He was celebrating a thanksgiving meal with His own disciples. There was no turkey, stuffing, or green bean casserole, but instead His own life offered to them as a gift to receive. He was calling them to a meal of remembrance of all God had done, was presently doing and would continue to do to provide for them the eternal life of His kingdom.
Every time we celebrate communion, the Eucharist, we are reminded that the resources of true life do not originate with us, but with God, in Christ. We are exposed in our weakness and vulnerability and invited to share a gift that only God can provide to sustain us in our need. At the Lord’s table I am reminded that life is a gift and I am so dependent upon that gift. The celebration of this thanksgiving meal, the Eucharist, is humbling. And in some way, every meal, especially the one celebrated during the Thanksgiving holiday, is not only an opportunity to give thanks, but to come humbly and dependent upon the one who invites us to partake of the gift of life.
As you consider your circumstances this Thanksgiving day, my you give thanks for all you are experiencing and especially for the gift of life embodied in Jesus Christ. For all life is a gift to be received from God who is the giver of all good things. Here is some new music to encourage you.