53 Times a Year

Every Lord’s day when our church celebrates communion, I pray twice. We normally don’t do that at home, praying once before the meal and then again in the middle of it. In this practice we are following Jesus’ pattern with two prayers of thanks.

Paul wrote, “on the night he was betrayed, [Jesus] took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25; see also Luke 22:19-20). I understand “in the same way also” to refer to giving thanks. The account in Matthew makes it clear. After giving His disciples bread and eating together, “He took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them” (Matthew 26:26-27; see also Mark 14:23).

Giving thanks happens in two places, before eating and before drinking. This is why the Lord’s supper is sometimes called the Eucharist.

In our day, usually only the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox refer to this ordinance by the name of Eucharist. That’s too bad we have to carry so much vocabulary baggage around with us. The word eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharisteo which means, “I give thanks,” the word found in all four passages above. The noun form, eucharistia, means “thanksgiving.”

We have a thanksgiving feast 53 times a year, with only one of those scheduled for a Thursday. Our family meals this week should be different because we’ve been practicing eating with sinners, eating with those who aren’t like us, eating with those who annoy us, eating with those who don’t deserve love, because we don’t either. What brings us together is the grace of Christ, and He invites all who believe to eat at His table. That’s a reason to give thanks.