Week after week throughout the year we confess with the whole Church in heaven and on earth that “it is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should, at all times and in all places, give thanks” to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This refrain is no mere rhetoric nor a case of poetic hyperbole, but a profound and comprehensive theological confession of what is true in the face of every contradiction. It is indeed the case, as St. Paul describes and teaches, that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the Word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5). So, too, a couple chapters earlier, the same Apostle urges, as of first importance, “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Tim. 2:1).
Even so, I was caught by surprise, some years ago, when I made a survey and cursory study of St. Paul’s emphasis on thanksgiving in his Epistles. Not only does he himself frequently give thanks in his writing, but he routinely indicates that thanksgiving is fundamental to the Christian faith and life. It is central to our prayers and at the heart of all our “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:15-17; Eph. 5:18-20).
It actually makes perfect sense that thanksgiving should be such a pervasive aspect of the Christian life. As one dear friend and colleague once commented – and I’ve often reflected on this ever since – when everything is a free and gracious gift from the hand of God, as it surely is, then there is nothing left for us to do or offer but thanksgiving. It is in such faith and confidence that we receive all things and respond with thanks and praise to God the Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord. And it truly is “meet, right, and salutary” that we should do so in the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, since it is in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, crucified and risen from the dead, given and poured out for us Christians to eat and drink, that Creation is fulfilled and sanctified for us and for our great good.