- 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
- Psalm 111
- Proverbs 9:1-6
- Psalm 34:9-14
- Ephesians 5:15-20
- John 6:51-58
[G]iving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything…
The Greek here uses the Greek word “Eucharist”. It’s the same word for our liturgy today, it’s the same word for every liturgy or communion rite. It’s what Christians are known for: Eucharist, giving thanks.
One of the tractates of the Talmud advise pious jews to expel from their company anyone who begins her prayers “We give you thanks, we give you thanks”, rather than the traditional, “Blessed are you Lord, our God”. Liturgical scholar John Koenig theorises this is (in part?) because of such Jewish Messianic prayers as are found in the Didache beginning exactly, “We give you thanks…”
It may be that the prominence of these table prayers [with 'thank you' - DHR] in the church attracted the critical attention of some early rabbinic authorities. Mishnah Berekot 5:3 reads “He who says (in prayer) ‘We give thanks, we give thanks’ is to be silenced.” In examining this passage, Alan Segal recalls for us the double use of eucharistoumen (“we give thanks”) first over the cup of wine and then over the bread, at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer in Didache 9:2-3. Segal entertains the strong possibility that the target of the rabbinic admonition in Berekot 5:3 is a church table liturgy, presumably still taking place within a Jewish context…
The Feast of the World’s Redemption by John Koenig (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2000)
Followers of Jesus were known for giving thanks.
For example, the traditional blessing said in memory of the dead in Judaism is called Kaddish. It begins “Exalted and sanctified is God’s great name” and continues on without mentioning ether the departed or death. And it never uses the word “thanks.” There are important Jewish reasons for this liturgical development but let us imagine taking Paul at his word here, what, in death, might we give thanks for rather than simply bowing in awe before God?
How does the Christian community look, giving thanks always for all things?
At our weekly meetings, the community in which I live often wrestles with some seriously heavy issues. There can be some yelling, or intense discussion. There can be tears. It’s normal for families. But it’s hard. Yet we usually leave each meeting in a totally up space. Perhaps not “happy” or “bouncy” but up. How?
I think one thing that works is we close out our meetings with “kudos”. We go around the table, not in turns, but just shouting out, “Kudos to Jennifer for pancakes this morning.” “Kudos to Robert for helping me to cook tonight!” “Kudos to Jay for the new internet router!” THe community spends 3 or 4, sometimes 5 or 10 minutes giving thanks to each other.
And suddenly things are ok.
Imagine this in a theological, liturgical way. The Didache says “Before all things we thank you that you are mighty,” where do we go from there? How would you begin each day’s prayers making Eucharist, literally, giving thanks for all things?
Alexander Schmemann, one of the American Saints we commemorate in this parish, says that the human being is the priest of all creation, standing in the middle of the Temple of this world making Eucharist out of all things. It is our job – really – to stand up and say thanks over every thing available to us.
That’s not all of course, you know that in Catholic and Sacramental thought there is something special about the bread and the wine after the thanksgiving is said over them…
So also, I will venture to say, there is something special about the tree you see or the friend or enemy you see on the street after you make Eucharist with them in place of the bread or wine. When you take some of the most painful parts of your life and make Eucharist with them they are transformed in a way we can not see or understand into the Body of Christ.
We give you thanks.
It’s not just a credo or even a (Jewish) liturgical innovation: it’s a way of life.
How do you give thanks, and where?