Lutheran Women of Australia
Study 2: Jesus institutes the meal of thanksgiving
O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever! Thank you, Lord, that we can be together today studying your Word. Send us your Holy Spirit and guide our meditation and discussion. Give us thankful hearts for all your blessings. In Jesus name, Amen.
Read 1 Corinthians 11:23–26
What stands out to you as you read and hear this read today? Are there any surprises? What sorts of questions come to mind?
What do we generally call the meal Jesus instituted here? What other names does it go by? Discuss the different emphases or significance of each of these names.
What is at the centre of the Church’s life? Surely our regular gatherings for Divine Service (worship). What is at the heart of our worship? There are perhaps different ways of answering that question, but I would say it is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. And what is right in the middle of the Lord’s Supper? It is the giving of thanks to the Father through Jesus.
Think back to the list of names you came up with for the meal Jesus instituted. Did anyone mention the ‘Eucharist’? The word Eucharist comes from the Greek work ‘eucharisteo’ which simply means ‘to give thanks’. So, the Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion is also the ‘thanksgiving meal’. Let’s have a closer look at our text.
Notice Paul often sees his role as ‘receiving’ and ‘handing on’ the things of the Christian faith (see also 1 Corinthians 15:3). This ‘handing on’ word is the one from where our word “tradition” comes. How important is it for us to ‘receive’ and ‘hand on’ our Christian faith and especially the practice of the Lord’s Supper?
Close your Bible for a moment and try to answer this question: what did Jesus do after he took the bread and before he broke it? (See Matthew 26:27 for the same connection with the cup.)
What do you imagine Jesus ‘giving thanks’ looked and sounded like?
What do you think is included when Jesus says, ‘do this in remembrance of me’? What is the ‘this’?
How do you think eating the bread and drinking the cup proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes?
At a basic level, Jesus is simply giving thanks for a meal like any other Jewish host would do. This is, in fact, one of the places we get our custom of praying before meals or ‘saying grace’. Jesus did this regularly, and so we maintain this as a fundamental part of the Christian life.
Did you grow up praying before and after meals? Has this been a challenge in your family? What version of ‘grace’ does your family use?
At a deeper level, however, Jesus is not only ‘saying grace’ for a meal that sustains the body, but leading his whole Church in a great act of thanksgiving to his Father for the meal which sustains us body and soul. The Church has always understood that Jesus ‘do this in remembrance of me’ includes the ongoing giving of thanks by his Church. In this ‘Eucharist’ we join with Jesus in thanking our heavenly Father for all good gifts, especially the gift of Jesus and life in him that we now receive through his body and blood. The word grace is ‘charis’ which is hidden inside ‘eucharisteo’. Thanksgiving is the only fitting response to receiving God’s grace.
Try to remember the opening words to the traditional Holy Communion liturgy in the Lutheran Hymnal. Where do words and phrases about thanksgiving come up?
In the Service with Communion Alternative form from the Lutheran Hymnal, a very rich prayer of thanksgiving was included and is below. Read it aloud and discuss (notice how it stretches all the way from the beginning of time to our lives today):
All praise and thanks be to you, eternal God, holy Father, together with your only Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit who unites your people in love. We thank you for creating all things. We thank you for calling and rescuing your chosen people. Above all we thank and praise you for keeping your promises to the people of old and sending your Son Jesus Christ, whose life, death and resurrection for our salvation we remember as he comes to us in this holy meal.
Finish with a prayer, either as a group or by a nominated person and pray together the Lord’s prayer.