The Roots of Gratitude

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.

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Early Christian Writing on the Lord’s Supper

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?