November 24, 2019 I Corinthians 11:23-26

A group of us have been meeting on Monday evenings to study Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. Voskamp is an author, a pig farmer’s wife in Ontario and the mother of seven children. One day a friend challenged Voskamp to write down 1,000 gifts. She accepted the challenge and over the course of a year, tried to immerse herself in the waking, dailyness of life and each day record God-given gifts. This book is what she learned about the discipline of gratitude over the course of a year.

She begins her book writing about how this total absorption with gratitude somehow slowed the pace of her days as she became more aware, more present.   This spoke to a very tender spot in my heart.  I’ve mentioned this from the pulpit before, how in tune I am with the very limited time we have left with our children living at home.  I just want to be with them. 

I want our family to do things together all the time.   But our kids, increasingly, have busy and active social lives of their own.  So as I reach the place where I’m trying to hoard these moments of togetherness, my kids have less and less time to give.  When someone says they know a way to slow time down, I’m all ears.   Within the first chapter, Voskamp had me – hook, line and sinker.  I’ve begun keeping my own gift list.  I’m at number 62 right now.  Every day I just try to be more present and aware when joy or peace or contentment enters the room and I write these little gifts down – #9 – Winter’s first snow; #15 – Holding hands with Todd; #34 – Camaraderie around church council tables.    And it’s working.  Awareness is dawning.  Voskamp names these gifts as all the different ways God uniquely loves us.  I am feeling loved.

She writes, “I watch the hands move grace on the clock face. I’m growing older. These children are growing up. But time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling, gaining time…My small son pauses between bites, wiggles his tooth with the tip of his tongue. I watch him and smile. He sees me watching and he grins. He takes that last bite of chocolate-melt cookie and with mouth still full of gooey good, he serenades soft, “I love you, Mom…and all this.” And all this. This cathedral moment, this God, this time before it bursts. All this….This moment is the house of God and I reach for the plate. I want to savor long whatever time holds.”

The premise of her book is built upon the Greek word, eucharisteo. This is a verb which translated means, “giving thanks”, “showing gratitude.” Most of us probably recognize the word Eucharist embedded here, another word for communion. How fitting, on this Thanksgiving Sunday, that we gather around the communion table in an act of thanksgiving.

Voskamp breaks this word down further.  There within eucharisteo is its root, charisCharis means “grace”.  And within the word charis, is its own root, chara, meaning “joy”.  

We can look at this word as a series of doorways. To enter into that inner sanctum of joy, one must first pass through grace.  This make sense.  In an eternal profusion of pathways, the experience of grace lights our way and users us into joy. 

But there’s another layer here, a doorway to grace as well that is only entered through thanksgiving.  This one offers some serious food for thought.  Grace is that gift freely given.  A gift that requires nothing of us, not even thanksgiving.  One could even argue that grace prompts thanksgiving.  We recognize a God gift, a grace, and we’re thankful.  Yes, that’s true.  But, when you tune to thanksgiving as a daily discipline, when gratitude beats out the rhythm of your day, you are far more likely to actually see the grace, the gift that brings you to joy.

A fri