A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery
The Gift of Thanks
November 28, 2019
The Greek word for “thanks” is eucharisto, which we transliterate “Eucharist.” Receiving the gifts of Christ’s body and blood both expresses and elicits our thanksgiving to God for the benefits we receive through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Christian tradition calls the Eucharist a “feast.” It is a festival of thanks.
Giving thanks and festivity go hand in hand. Our national holidays of thanksgiving – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving – are all marked by grand parades. Giving thanks leads us to party!
The Greek words for “joy” and “grace” also come from the same root word, char. When we give thanks, we acknowledge that we have received something we did not earn, which is the essence of grace. I don’t run in to our business office to pour out my thanks when I get my paycheck, because I earned it. Thanks erupts in response to receiving something unearned, even undeserved. We call such gifts “gratuitous,” gifts of sheer grace.
Thanksgiving is the essence of joy, a sure lifter of our spirits. It yields a harvest of growing joy as we see those whom we thank brightened and encouraged by our thanks.
Giving thanks builds up its recipient. Blame, ridicule, and shame do the opposite, tearing someone down. Thanksgiving is a counter-cultural practice in a world that increasingly condones and even celebrates public attacks on those we consider undesirable, or with whom we disagree. Such discourse inevitably shrinks our souls.
When we make thanksgiving a habit of life, joy increasingly abounds. Thanksgiving is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister