Sermon for Mt Olive Lutheran Thanksgiving 2015
In Greek, Thanksgiving is Eucharistia. Does that sound familiar? It should. Every week, we say a Eucharistic prayer and participate in the Eucharist, otherwise known as communion.
As I did a little research on the word, I found it interesting that the secular understanding of Eucharistia is an ‘attitude of thankfulness’, but in our New Testament, it shifts, to ‘a sung or spoken praise.’ I think though, that the two are not exclusive any more than Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to be. They are meant to go together, to complement and complete each other; one in preparation for the other.
You see, the guidance for this is in how Jesus led the last supper. Once more, he takes the way we understand things and flips them upside down. Today, we give thanks after a gift- in fact, it is a bit rude to give it in advance, isn’t it? Can you imagine it now? Telling your boss thank you for a gift they haven’t given you? Talk about awkward! Jesus, not one to mind the expectations of society, however, shows us a different process. He gave thanks before the gift. Not after. And now, in November, we give thanks and it is not just for the blessing of food and bounty, but originally, it was also for the meaning behind the bounty: life to come. God had provided life or the possibility of it for the immigrants to the Americas. Just as Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to all as a symbol of his life and promise through resurrection to come, the hungry, cold, scared immigrants, refugees from Holland, England, Germany and France gave thanks for the promise of life in a winter that would have sufficient food and warmth. They were given a promise of life.
So too, are we given a promise of life. And in anticipation, we give thanks. We give thanks for the child that is born every Christmas in our memory and hearts. We give thanks knowing the child will be a man who will die on a cross for us. We give thanks knowing that our salvation is paid in full and that we have eternal life waiting. We give thanks for the life we have right now- and the ones around us who need us or that we need. And we give thanks for the things we don’t need or want as well.
It isn’t just about the action of saying or singing thanks. It is about an attitude of thanksgiving, in the midst of life, whether that brings us poverty or wealth, illness or health, joy or sorrow. Jesus knew he was going to die, and yet, he gave thanks over that bread that he knew would symbolize his death. He gave thanks in the midst of and that is the attitude of thanksgiving. He gave thanks for that which he did not want and shows us how we too can give thanks in difficult circumstance.
The news and events of our community show us that humanity is hurting and it scares and angers us. But we can choose to respond in a different way. We can choose to respond in thanks- for even the pain, even the death, even the sorrow, even the hunger, homelessness, and addiction. I am not saying to be thankful for these things- but to give thanks in the midst of. We can give thanks, knowing that there is more than this, that we are given Christ and new life. And when live into that attitude of giving thanks in all things, we find our selves, freed, like the birds of the air that Matthew writes of. I challenge you today, to give thanks, truly, deeply, not just for the good, the bounty, the love and the joy, but for that which we do not want. For it was in giving thanks, in the midst of breaking the bread, and promising the gift of life, that Christ too, remembered the promises of his Father in heaven and found the trust and strength to fulfill his role here on earth. So too, may we find our strength and purpose in giving thanks, not just with our mouths, but our hearts.