Formations 04.28.2024: Wow

Luke 22:14-20; Hebrews 12:28-29

Author Anne Lamott wrote a book about what she considered the “three essential prayers.” And what are these prayers? She says they are Help, Thanks, and Wow.

As we consider the meaning and practice of Communion, we would do well to keep those three prayers in mind. We pray “Help” to the extent that we find comfort at the Lord’s table. We come confessing our sins and crying out to God for the spiritual sustenance that we need to get through our lives.

We also come to the table with prayers of “Thanks” on our lips. In fact, one of the oldest names for this sacred act, Eucharist, comes from the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” We remember Christ’s death, we celebrate his resurrection, we share fellowship both with him and with his people, and we whisper, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

As Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, Luke tells us that he gave thanks over the bread and the cup. Even customary Jewish and Christian table blessings on ordinary occasions feature expressions of thanks, so it shouldn’t surprise us that gratitude is also part of this distinctive act of Christian worship.

Thanksgiving is a hallmark of the Christian experience. As we offer God acceptable worship, we are buoyed by gratitude. In fact, we may feel that we never say Thank you enough. The author of Hebrews reminds us that we are destined to receive a kingdom that can’t be shaken. Therefore, he says, “Let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe” (12:28).

We are heirs of an unshakable kingdom. The logical response is thanksgiving. And we offer this thanks in an attitude of reverence and awe. Because how could we not? God’s love for us is beyond the telling, beyond anything we could ever imagine. In the end, all we can do is rest in that love.

In other words, “Thanks” gives way to “Wow.”

Source: Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (New York: Riverhead, 2012).

Discussion

• In this unit, we’ve learned four biblical terms for this sacred act: the Lord’s supper (remembering Christ’s death), the breaking of bread (celebrating the resurrection), Communion (sharing Christ’s life), and now Eucharist (giving thanks). Which of these terms speaks most meaningfully to you, and why? Which of these terms calls for further reflection?
• What is the role of thanksgiving in our sharing of the bread and the cup?
• How does the Lord’s table remind us of reasons to give thanks?
• How does this sacred act provoke awe or wonder?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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