Guest Blogger: Pastor Dan Weber – Give Thanks Unto the Lord
When you hear the word “Thanksgiving,” what do you think of? For me, it’s turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Those are some of the first things that come to my mind. Along with all that food, I think of people sitting around a table together. Gathered for a common reason. Gathered as a family to celebrate something special. Gathered together to give thanks.
Now let me ask you about another word. When you hear the word “Eucharist,” what do you think of? Some of you may be thinking, “I’ve never heard that word before.” And that’s fine. But some of you, when you read the word “Eucharist,” think of a small piece of bread, a tiny sip of wine, and a pastor repeating familiar words. Eucharist is another word for the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.
One last question then I’ll quit asking you things (for now): Do you know why we call the Lord’s Supper the Eucharist? Eucharist is the Greek work for thanksgiving. “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks (eucharistesas), he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
Later this week we will gather with our families to give thanks for the bounty of the land. We’ll feast on turkey, stuffing, gravy, and all the fix’ns. And although the Eucharistic feast of the Lord’s Supper might not fill our bellies in the same way as our turkey dinners, it does have some similarities.
We give thanks for the gifts we receive and we celebrate as a family.
We celebrate the Eucharist as a pure gift of God. In, with, and under the bread and the wine, we receive the very body and blood of Jesus. We actually participate in his flesh and blood. And in that meal, we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10: “16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” In other words, the Eucharist has to do with our vertical relationship with God. When I commune at the altar, I am actually participating in the body and blood of Jesus.
But that’s not the end of the story. Just like at Thanksgiving dinner, we gather around the Eucharist as a family. We gather together as brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord’s Supper is more than “me and Jesus.” Said differently, the Eucharist is more than just our vertical relationship with God. It also has to do with our horizontal relationship with one another. When you and I commune at the same altar, we are saying that we are at peace with one another.
This is why many churches “pass the peace” before Communion (or it could be during the “holy howdy” at the very start of the service). It gives us the opportunity to make peace with a brother or sister who may have something against us. If there is a division between us, it would not be appropriate for us to commune together as if we were at peace. It is a communion with both God and our neighbors. The Eucharist is a family meal. And by sharing the sacred meal with one another, we are making a common confession of faith. Therefore we approach the table in unity.
This unity is important both in terms of our personal relationships to one another and our common beliefs. We go the Lord’s Table acknowledging that we believe the same things. We are in communion with what this altar teaches and preaches. And so, if you don’t believe what this particular pulpit and altar teach, then it would be odd to commune as if you did. A false profession of unity is not consistent with the purpose of communion.
The Eucharist is a mysterious meal, there’s no doubt about it. We give thanks to God for His great gifts and we continue to pray that our beliefs and practices would be God-pleasing and according to His will. We have several meal times scheduled this month and I look forward to sharing in this great Eucharistic feast with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. A forgiven family, adopted in Christ through the waters of baptism, sharing a sacred meal with His body as His body. Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, and His love endures forever.