Giving Thanks (May 15, 2012)

…Opening To…

The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the church into the dimension of the Kingdom. (Alexander Schmemann)

…Listening In…

On the night he was betrayed he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” After supper, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.” (Words of Institution, Eucharistic Prayer C)

…Filling Up…

Our tenth moment in worship is called the “Eucharistic” prayer. While the term “Eucharist” comprehends the entire Sunday worship experience, it is also a special word used for this particular section, as well as a name for the elements of the blessed bread and wine that have been indwelt by the presence of Christ.

Also known as the “prayer of consecration,” the Eucharistic prayer is composed of several parts. The “sursum corda” (Latin for “Lift up your hearts”) is the special exchange between the presider and the congregation, in which the priest asks for permission to pray on the congregation’s behalf. Then the prayer recounts God’s movement in creation, humanity’s downfall and need for salvation, and the coming of Christ. Then the priests prays the “words of institution,” in which we remember Jesus’ last supper with the disciples, and, in remembering, we take part in that supper ourselves. It is not a reenactment of the last supper, but a participation in it. Finally, the priest appeals to the Holy Spirit to dwell in the bread and wine, so that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Christ.

But let’s take a second look at the word “Eucharist.” This fancy word would be much less fancy if you happened to be both from Asia Minor and two thousand years old. This strange looking word simply means “to give thanks.” So, when we come together to share the meal, we are coming together to give thanks to God for all the blessings God has bestowed upon us. The fact that this intentional thanksgiving happens in community reminds us that we must share our blessings just as we share the body and blood of Christ. And it is the very dwelling of Christ in us and we in him that sustains us as we share with others.

When we give thanks to God for the blessings and gifts God has given us, we must remember that thanksgiving is the catalyst for sharing. If we do not share our gifts with others, then we have not truly thanked God for them. This is so important that I’m going to say it again. If we do not share our gifts with others, then we have not truly thanked God for them.

Sometimes, these gifts may seem meager or inadequate, like simple bread and wine. But those are the times we must remember that Christ is there with us, giving thanks for us, and breaking us so he can share himself through our lives with this broken world.

…Praying For…

Dear God, “open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to [the] Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of […] Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.” Amen. (Eucharistic Prayer C)

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, nourished by the bread of life that you sent to the world, Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

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