By Rev. Kyle Otto
Pastoral Care Director, Waverly Gardens
What does God’s grace have to do with giving thanks?
The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us of the season of harvest: of apples and squash, pies and cornucopia, the fruits of hard labor and divine blessing. Traditionally a time of sharing meals from the days of the Puritans in New England, customs of sharing the harvest with family and neighbors date back to far earlier Biblical roots. In ancient Israel, when laborers gathered the harvest of their fields, they were told to leave the edges of their fields for the poor and the foreigner to glean (Leviticus 23:22). In the book of Ruth, around 1200 B.C., we see gracious Boaz care for Ruth in this way, sharing his harvest with her, displaying God’s grace through this law that provided for the poor.
When sacrifices were made at the tabernacle a thousand years before Christ, one of the five offerings was called the “fellowship offering,” in which members of the community could bring a lamb or goat which they freely offered as an act of worship and thanksgiving for God’s blessings to them. The offering then served as a communal meal between the Lord and the one who offered it in celebration of fellowship between God and his people. God demonstrated lavish grace in offering a way to renew and restore our relationship with him, while displaying his heart to be reconciled with us, which he finally did through Christ Jesus, whose communion meal we celebrate today.
So what does thanksgiving have to do with grace? In the New Testament, the word “thanksgiving” comes from the Greek eucharistia, which derives from the word charis, the same word from which we get the word “grace”. Thanksgiving means to properly acknowledge God’s grace as we witness his eternally good purposes being worked out in our lives and world. And as we give thanks, God actually blesses us in turn with good health! Did you know that gratitude is associated with lower rates of depression, decreased risk of phobias, addictions, and generalized anxiety disorder? It is even thought to improve sleep quality and decreases stress!
God invites us to give thanks regularly for healthier lives that honor him. And he calls us to do it together, with a generous spirit of giving to others as we do, showing that we trust God to keep providing for us even as we share his gifts with others. Let thanksgiving grace your dinner table and your relationships this season, in the same measure that God has blessed you with his grace.
A blessed Thanksgiving from Presbyterian Homes & Services.