The Lord’s voice is over the waters;
the glorious God thunders;
the Lord is over the mighty waters.
The Lord’s voice is strong;
the Lord’s voice is majestic.
The Lord’s voice breaks cedar trees--
yes, the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon
Excerpt from Psalm 29
“The Gifts of God for the People of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.”
These are the words that are spoken each Sunday at my church before the congregation receives communion. It’s these words that remind us, as we consume the elements of communion, to remember our Lord who died for us and to take spiritual nourishment from this reminder. The incarnation of Jesus and our invitation to remember it in communion are both gifts from God to his people.
And these gifts are nothing to scoff at, for in the incarnation of Christ, God has opened the way to eternal life and reconciliation with him. We thank God for the incarnation and our salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ when we participate in the Eucharist (literally “thanksgiving”). However, what if we did more than be thankful for the gifts of God? What if we instead examined the kind of God who gives such gifts? What would we learn about God in doing that?
In examining these gifts that God has given us, we learn much about what kind of God he is, and how much we mean to him. We learn that he is a God who loves his creation and desires to reconcile all people to himself. We learn that God values us so much that he loved us even when we did not love him and that he came for us regardless. We learn that God loves us in a way that gives without consideration of cost to himself. During Communion, we are invited to reflect on this deep love that God has for us and be grateful for it, as well as to understand that a God who loves us like that wants us to love others in the same way.
God gives us other things as well. Some things seem simple - God gives us sunshine and rain; God gives us winter and summer; God gives us an earth and sky. We often take these things for granted because they are so present in our lives. God gives us things that are not so simple as well. He gives us the love of those around us; he gives us talents and skills; he gives us the ability to grow and change. These we often forget as well, because they are quiet, subtle things.
By these things we learn of a God who desires that his creation be ordered and sustained and full of wonder. We learn that God desires people to have communities because he has created us to be social, that he desires us to work and create because he has given us the skills and talent to do so, and that he desires to see us grow more and more into the image of Jesus because he has made a way for us to do that too.
If we were to examine the quality of things that God gives us, we would be doing exactly what God wants us to do, for in giving to us, God wants to subtly bring our thoughts to him. Any moment at which we thank God for something is also an opportunity to “Give to the Lord the glory due his name.” Any moment like this is a small moment for worshiping God as we see what a holy and good God he is.
These are the moments that teach us to pray without ceasing. When the generosity of a friend or a beautiful sunset cause us to pause for a moment and reflect on the God that gave us those things, we have become to let our mind rest on the one who gave us the gift. When we start to recognize the Giver, then we start to recognize things from God that were previously given gifts we didn’t notice. We start to see those sunbeams mentioned by C.S. Lewis in other places in our life, until our lives look like daylight as we can give thanks to God for all things in our lives.
Adam Thrash is a bioinformatics researcher by day and a theologian by night. He is a member of the Episcopal Church and is on track to start the process of discernment for ministry. You can read more from him and see pictures of his cat at his newest project, Theology & Cats, and you can follow him on Twitter at @adam_thrash.