Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Giving of Thanks

Since the beginning of humanity, we have made an offering to God to show our gratitude for His blessings. From the first harvest and first flock of sheep recorded in Genesis, the practice of bringing an offering to God was established.
“Now in the process of time Cain brought a sacrifice to the Lord from the fruits of the ground. Able also brought a sacrifice from the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. The Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his sacrifices. So Cain was extremely sorrowful, and his countenance fell.” (Genesis 4.3-5)
And from that moment human beings have been offering to God, some with a pure heart, some with a selfish heart.

Fast forward to Noah and the Flood…The FIRST thing Noah did after leaving the Ark was to make an offering to God.
“The Noah built an altar to God, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered whole burnt offerings on the altar.” (Genesis 8.20)
Fast forward to Abraham and his victory over the king of Sodom…The FIRST thing Abraham did was celebrate the Divine Liturgy with Christ.
“Now Melchizedek the king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. He blessed Abram and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hands.’ Then Abram gave him a tithe of all.” (Genesis 14.18-20)
Fast forward to the reunion of Jacob and his brother Esau…The FIRST thing Jacob did once he pitched his tent was to make an offering to God.
“He then bought a parcel of land where he pitched his tent from Hamor, Shechen’s father, for a hundred male lambs. There he set up an altar and called on the God of Israel.” (Genesis 33.19-20)
Fast forward to Moses and the Temple…You get the idea, right? With a tradition of making an offering to God to express gratitude for blessings and salvation, it was only natural that Moses would establish a beautiful system of sacrifice offerings in the Temple. You MUST understand; each offering was made AFTER God had blessed or saved the offerer. The offering was NOT made to secure God’s loyalty, NOR as payment on some grand deal.

Fast forward to Jesus Christ on the night of “The Last Supper”…Jesus turned to the Holy Tradition of our Fathers and made an offering of Thanks and combined it with an offering of communion, thus sealing what we call Holy Communion (Holy Eucharist from the Greek Θεία Ευχαριστία) in which WE combine our thanks to God for the blessings AND salvation while uniting ourselves to Him.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26.26-28)

So when the Holy Apostles, in the manner of Moses before, established the Way of Life for the early Church, and building upon the Holy Tradition of their Fathers, established the Eucharist as the weekly and ULTIMATE way to give thanks to God.

Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs. Matthew 7:6  (Didache Chapter 9)
So how will you give thanks to God tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day? Will your heart be pure or selfish?
This post is written for the 40 Days of Blogging Challenge sponsored by the Preachers Institute. You may find other blogs participating in this challenge. I hope you enjoy this year’s Advent journey.

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