Give Thanks and Break Bread
He sat down, paused before he spoke, and then said, “It’s too much for me to give thanks. I cannot be thankful for this. I will never be thankful for this.”
He and his wife had lost their son, and someone with the best of intentions had quoted Paul’s instructions to the church in Thessalonica, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Then was not the time to say, “Paul did not say be thankful for everything – but thankful in everything.” Yet, that is what I thought about for days afterwards. Paul says, literally, eucharisto, in everything – no matter what – eucharisto – give thanks.
I grew up Southern Baptist so I never heard the word, “eucharist.” I think that was something the Episcopalians across town did now and then. We didn’t have rituals other than full immersion baptism, marriage, at least four verses of “Just As I Am” and dinner on the ground after church.
What they called the Eucharist we called by the name Jesus gave it – the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes someone who had been brought up Methodist would slip and call it Communion. We did it four times a year, and we always tried to time it so we were not there or had to leave early because it made the service longer. They would change up on us because attendance always dropped when we knew ahead of time. So, it was only years later that I discovered the Episcopalians were all along doing what Paul told the Thessalonians. They were giving thanks – eucharisto.
Scattered throughout the whole New Testament you’ll find this word.
The lone Samaritan leper who returns to Jesus throws himself at the feet of Jesus and gives thanks.
Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus gives thanks.
The church at Jerusalem gives thanks to God for the collection on their behalf.
You cannot avoid it. It’s everywhere you turn. People giving thanks.
People are changed and give thanks. People give thanks and are changed. Even in Romans Paul describes the awful effects of people who fail to give thanks, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculation, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Giving thanks is not a mere formality or pleasantry, is it?
But something else becomes clear as you read the passages. There is a connection between eucharisto – thanks – and breaking bread.
Every description of the last supper says, “He gave thanks and broke bread.”
In feeding the 5,000 he broke the bread and gave thanks.
At the inn at Emmaus, it was when Jesus broke bread and gave thanks that the disciples recognized him for who he was.
As I’ve thought about it more I’ve begun to see that giving thanks – eucharisto – is connected to bread more often than not. There is something about food and gratitude that we don’t want to miss.
Here is what I’ve come to realize.
Breaking bread is something we do with others. It is something that is shared. We don’t give thanks alone, do we? Yes, of course we do sometimes but there is a connection between eating together and being grateful that is unique. This is the best way to give thanks – to do it with others.
So then I started thinking about Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and I could hear him saying,
“In the midst of everything in your life eucharisto and break bread together.”
Take care of each other that way. Lean on each other and carry one another’s burdens.
In sorrow and in joy – give thanks and break bread.
In birth and in death – give thanks and break bread.
In gain and loss – give thanks and break bread.
In sickness and in health – give thanks and break bread.
In laughter and in sadness – give thanks and break bread.
In grief and in glory – give thanks and break bread.
In these days together at The Gathering we are going to do both of these. We are going to break bread together and we are going to give thanks. Probably, if I were to settle on an image for The Gathering it would be this simple. We break bread and we give thanks. We do this together.
In fact, on Sunday morning we are going to do just that. Some of us may call it Communion. Some of us may call it the Lord’s Supper, and some may call it what I wondered about for so many years – the Eucharist. But, as part of the final service we are going to celebrate breaking bread and giving thanks. Really, it is going to be just the final time for what we will have been doing all along – being thankful in all things together.
Like my friend, this may be a hard time in your life right now. You are in the right place. You are with a fellowship of what John Claypool called “fellow strugglers.” For some, this may be the time for God to use you to comfort others. Whoever you are and whatever your circumstances I am certain you and I are meant to be here.
Break bread and give thanks.