Odds are that as your family gathers together to sit down around the table for Thanksgiving this year, one of you will begin the meal by saying grace. But did you ever wonder where the phrase “to say grace” came from? In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp teaches that when Jesus broke the bread and gave thanks during the last supper, He was giving eucharisteo—Eucharist. In some churches the Eucharist is seen as the body of Christ being given during communion. In other churches the Eucharist is synonymous with communion, and is seen more as an act of obedience to show the Lord’s death until He returns (Luke 22:19, Acts 27:35, 1 Corinthians 11).
But something is missing with these interpretations. In the Scriptures, the word eucharisteo is the word for thanksgiving. After Jesus broke bread He gave thanks—or eucharisteo. Jesus wasn’t holding the bread as a symbol of the Eucharist, he was using the word eucharisteo as an entirely different symbol—that of thankfulness prior to or during a period of brokenness.
Jesus was giving thanks—eucharisteo—in light of His soon-to-be-experienced broken body and separation from His Father. To truly celebrate the communion table is to be thankful for the brokenness that God brings into our lives as we demonstrate, and are reminded of, the Lord’s death until he comes. The symbols of the bread and wine are essential, but they are meaningless without a spirit of thankfulness—eucharisteo!
So what does this all have to do with “saying grace?” The root word for eucharisteo is charis. In the Greek, charis is the word for grace, thus the phrase, “to say grace.” Thankfulness and grace are inseparable. If you want to experience God’s grace, then you must begin to practice thankfulness, especially during times of brokenness.
This gets better. The word charis (grace) is also related to the Greek word chara, which means joy. So whether you find yourself in front of a table of feasting or suffering, I’m beginning to see a pattern for living within the spirit of eucharist: thankfulness unleashes God’s grace, which allows us to experience joy, even in the midst of brokenness and abandonment.
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks (eucharisteo) to God and the Father by him" ( Col 3:17).
M.L. Nesbitt, 1876
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