OK, if you didn’t know, the guy is showing the American Sign Language motion for “Thank you.”
Let’s think about “thank.”
It’s kind of a weird word: what exactly does it do ?
It’s a sound we make, something we say, to let the other person know that we acknowledge whatever gift or kindness they did for us, and that we feel grateful toward her or him.
Being a word-nut, I had to go find out where “thank” comes from. Surprise! A thousand years ago in Europe, it was developing from the same root as the word “think.”
It makes sense, doesn’t it ?
When we thank someone, we are telling them that we think about what they did for us: we don’t just take it for granted; we notice.
Being a word-nut, I also had to go into the language of the New Testament to understand what Jesus, Paul, and others meant by the words we translate as “thanks.” It turns out that, with one notable exception, these words are always based on the word “charis,” meaning “grace” or “a gift.” To this day, when Greeks express their gratitude, they still say “efcharistó,” which literally means something like, “nicely gifted!” or “goodness gracious!”
That same word is the word we use for Holy Communion, the “eucharist” : it’s the word for what Jesus always did when he broke bread for his followers – including at the Last Supper: he gave thanks to God for the gift of the bread. I hope that whenever we take part in the Lord’s Supper, we seriously consider God’s gift of Grace to each of us. “Goodness gracious !”
The exception to the New Testament’s use of words based on “charis” (grace) for giving thanks was in Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 11:25. Here, Jesus is praying to God his Father: “I thank you, Father…” Here, where it says “ I thank,” Jesus is using a Greek word which would normally be translated, “I fully confess / fully acknowledge ….” In other words, when Jesus thanked his Father God, he indicated that he was really paying attention to what God had done for him and his followers. “I get it !!”
This week we have our annual national day of Thanksgiving. We also have a big boost into the annual national shopping frenzy, an annual national eating orgy, and a special episode of football watching.
In the midst of these other religions, I pray that we followers of Jesus will make the effort to fully acknowledge the grace God has given us. Not only do we get food and shelter and freedom and many, many more gifts in this world: the main thing we get is a Father God Who pays attention to us— our God Who gave Himself for us in Jesus Christ.
Our mission as God’s children is to point the world around us— in all its chaos— to notice the goodness of God and to give God thanks.
As a pastor noticing God’s gifts to us in the church, I share the feelings which Paul. Silas, and Timothy expressed to the church at Thessalonika:
How can we thank God enough for you
in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?
Night and day we pray most earnestly
that we may see you face to face
and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself
and our Lord Jesus
direct our way to you.
And may the Lord make you increase and
abound in love for one another and for all,
just as we abound in love for you.
And may He so strengthen your hearts in holiness
that you may be blameless before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
(1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)
Sunday, November 22
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Sunday, November 29
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13