Psalm 100 was written to instruct the community of faith on giving thanks. It is a blue print of sorts for developing a posture of gratitude. Thanksgiving in the text is grounded in understanding two key things: creation and covenant. The Psalm begins with a call to celebration and praise showing the connection between joy and thanksgiving. As Karl Barth said, joy is the “simplest form of gratitude.”
This joyful gratitude comes forth from knowing something about God. The text says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, not we ourselves we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” In other words, know that God is the Creator and we ourselves are creatures. It is good to be reminded that we did not create ourselves—an obvious fact we actually do forget.
As creatures we are fundamentally dependent. Our existence itself is a gift. Do you see how this is foundational to gratitude? If your existence is a gift then it follows that everything that comes your way is also a gift. All of life is truly God’s gift to us. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians make perfect sense when you think about life this way: “What do you have that you have not received?”
G.K. Chesterton once said that “All goods look better when they look like gifts.” This is true. The fact is, all of life can and should be viewed this way. Imagine seeing life through this lens—it is the opposite of entitlement. Embrace what it means to be a creature of God and this view of life as gift will begin to take root.
The Psalm continues with a call to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. The imperatives for thanksgiving really pile up in this section. Then comes a further root cause of giving thanks. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” The ground of thanksgiving provided here is the goodness and steadfast love of God.
The language of steadfast love is tightly connected to covenant. The word refers to loyalty and covenant faithfulness. It is the type of love bound to oaths and promises and sealed by blood. These promises are made by a God who cannot lie and can never change. They are made by a God who ultimately sent his Son to fulfill his promises to us and provide a way of forgiveness and hope. Understanding that the wonder and certainty of the blood bought promises of God produces gratitude, it must.
In the previous post I shared a portion of the Didache on the theme of baptism. In this post, we turn to the Didache to see what it says about the Lord’s Supper.
Now about the thanksgiving, give thanks this way: First, about the cup: “We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of your boy David which you made known to us through your boy Jesus. Glory be to you for the age.
Now about the broken loaf: “We thank you, our Father, for the life and the knowledge that you made known to us through your boy Jesus. Glory be to you for the age. Just as this broken loaf was scattered on top of the hills and as it was gathered together and became one, in the same way let your assembly be gathered together from the remotest parts of the land into your kingdom. “For yours is the glory and the power through Anointed Jesus for the age.” Now no one should either eat or drink from your thanksgiving meal, but those who have been baptized into the Lord’s name. For about this also the Lord said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs.”
Now after you have been filled, give thanks this way: “We thank you, holy Father, for your holy name, which you made to live in our hearts, and for the knowledge and trust and immortality which you made known to us through Jesus your boy. Glory be to you for the age. Almighty master, it was you who created all for the sake of your name. You gave both food and drink to people for enjoyment, so that they might give thanks to you. But to us you have freely given spiritual food and drink and eternal life through your boy. Before all things, we are thankful to you that you are powerful. Glory be to you for the age. O Lord, remember your assembly, remember to rescue it from every evil and to make it complete in your love, and to gather it from the four winds into your kingdom which you prepared for it--it, which has been made holy. For yours is the power and the glory for the age.”
This early writing is packed with interesting material on this ordinance. Here are a few things that grabbed my attention. First, the ordinance is described as “the thanksgiving” and as a “meal.” This places the Lord’s Supper in the context of gratitude and fellowship. This is an early argument for understanding the appropriate setting of the ordinance as a meal. Second, the language used to describe Jesus is unique. He is called “your boy” multiple times. This language paints a picture of intimate sonship. Third, the Didache refers to the cup as the “holy vine of your boy David.” This seems to draw on the OT background of the everlasting covenant with the Davidic King. This is a unique Old Testament background for understanding the Lord’s Supper.
The fourth observation can be summarized as the missiological impulse of the ordinance in the Didache. The text says, “Just as this broken loaf was scattered on top of the hills and as it was gathered together and became one, in the same way let your assembly be gathered together from the remotest parts of the land into your kingdom.” There has been much discussion about the purpose of the Lord’s Supper and the general conclusion has been that it is primarily for the edification of the church. This early document pushes the concern of the ordinance outward to the nations as well. Fifth, the Didache’s application of Matthew 7:6 to the ordinance is unique: “Do not give what is holy to dogs.” This was a way of fencing the table. The document also makes clear that baptism is the appropriate precursor to the table.
Any thoughts on this early document’s take on the Lord’s Supper?