Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giving thanks

"Feeding the Multitude" 
by William Brassey Hole

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 6:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "And Jesus took the loaves and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise the fish as much as they wanted." John 6:11

This passage with its narrative of Jesus giving thanks then distributing bread and fish resonates with other scenes and meanings.

  • On the following day, Jesus explained the miracle in another teaching session. There He said, " 'I am the bread of life' " - John 6:41.
  • We think of the Lord's Supper:
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body'" - Matthew 26:26.
  • We remember another scene where two disciples traveled to Emmaus and along the way encountered an interesting stranger. When they begged Him to stop with them, He blessed their evening bread, broke and gave it to them, and they recognized—Jesus (Luke 24:29-31)!

The words "given thanks" in our focus verse are a translation of the Greek word eucharisteo.

[Eucharisteo  is made up of eu = well and charizomai = to give freely. It means to be grateful, to express gratitude, to be thankful. Eleven of the 39 appearances of the word in the NT refer to partaking of the Lord's Supper, while 28 occurrences describe the praise words given to the Godhead. During the second century, Eucharist became the generic term for the Lord's Supper" - Dick Mills,  Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1453.]

I never hear eucharisteo now but I think of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. In it she tells the story of a friend challenging her, in a time when she was searching for a greater sense of God's reality in her life, to make a list of ordinary things (like bread and fish) for which she could give thanks. Could she get to 1000?

This challenge became a practice for her. It put her on the road to a whole new understanding of God's activity in her life and gratitude for it—eucharisteo. She, in turn, challenged others so that the naming of life's ordinary gifts has become a movement of sorts.

And so I am challenged today by Jesus' example and Ann's exploration, to express my gratitude for life's ordinary gifts—like coffee, and my trusty Bic pen—and extraordinary gifts—Him, His body and blood, our mysterious union as I partake of the Eucharist, His life in me as I eat His word ... it goes on and on.

Dear Jesus, I love the scene of you giving thanks for food before distributing it. It reminds me to reflect on the source of every good gift and to return my thanks to You—instead of mindlessly grabbing blessings as my right. Help me to live gratefully today. Amen.

MORE: Ann Voskamp writes about eucharisteo

"In the original language, 'he gave thanks' reads 'eucharisteo.'

I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?

The root word of
eucharisteo is charis, meaning 'grace.' Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.

But there is more, and I read it.
Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy." Joy. Ah ... yes. I might be needing me some of that. That might be what the quest for more is all about—that which Augustine claimed, 'Without exception ... all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is joy'" -Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 32.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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