practicing gratitude

The long season after Pentecost carries the church through seven months of the lunar calendar. It is marked by the colour green, the colour of growth in the faith. The other seasons of the Christian year pass quickly - Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent & Holy Week, Easter. They carry us through the gospel of Jesus Christ from conception to birth to baptism to ministry, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Near the end of this Pentecostal season of growth in discipleship comes the national celebration of Thanksgiving. In Canada it falls on the second Sunday of October, in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. In most every nation there is a national marking of gratitude for the earth’s bounty, a reminder of our dependence upon God’s good earth for the food that sustains life. This national event provides an interpretive lens for the church’s life post-Pentecost. Or, perhaps more truthfully, it is the church’s weekly thanksgiving service within the rhythms of life after Pentecost that roots the annual cultural festival of Thanksgiving in long term practices of gratitude.

After Pentecost the church marks every Sunday as thanksgiving. After Pentecost life is lived in gratitude. After Pentecost the Holy Spirit breathes life and gives voices to praise God in every tongue. This is the reason that from the beginning the church has gathered around a table and celebrated the meal that is called the “Eucharist”. This is the Greek name of the Sacrament of Communion - the Lord’s Supper - and it is the word “thanksgiving”. The Lord’s Table is always and everywhere a great thanksgiving banquet that celebrates the great gift of new life that is given to the earth in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the heart of the word “eucharist” hides the great gift for which the earth and all creatures give thanks - “charis” - grace. When the church congregates it always gathers in gratitude for grace. Grace is the news that beyond our frail inability to make things right and in spite of our incapacity to cure and heal and make new, God in Christ is reconciling and forgiving and saving and redeeming the world.

For most Christians, in most times and places, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper - the Eucharist - is a weekly celebration of gratitude. For most Christians worship is first and foremost a gathering at the thanksgiving table of God. This is the central drama of the “mass”. It is the reason that at University Hill Congregation we have been increasing our celebration of the Eucharist over the years. Once we celebrated communion quarterly, then monthly and now we gather for Jesus’ great thanksgiving meal twenty times or more in a year. We are longing to rediscover a worship life that is first and foremost an offering of gratitude. It is too tempting for us to arrive at worship expecting to be on the receiving end, to be consumers of a religious service, to have our needs met. The nature of Christian worship is the polar opposite of a consumer activity. It is always primarily an offering of gratitude to God for the great gift of the good news that the earth is being saved.

In our life together this weekly practice of gratitude is carried by our children. Every Sunday we bring offerings of food for the emergency food cupboard at the First United Church Mission in Vancouver. As worshipers arrive foodstuffs are placed in wicker baskets at the entrance to the sanctuary. As part of the service our children are invited to carry the food to the Lord’s Table. Watching toddlers eagerly lift the weight of the world’s need in those baskets is powerful testimony that a grateful people cannot help but give of their bounty to those who hunger for love and for food and for God.

                                                                       (from "Telling Time" by Edwin Searcy)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Ed for continuing to teach us as you move towards healing. Blessing to you and your family this Thanksgiving.You are always in my prayers.