Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Eucharist: The Healthy Habit

Did you know that participation in the Lord's Supper regularly can be good for your health?

Doctors, psychologists and others knowledgeable about health tell us that people with positive attitudes are generally more healthy than people with negative attitudes. There is something about an attitude of gratitude, a cheerful outlook, or an optimistic spirit that's good for us. Actually, this is ancient knowledge, as Proverbs 17:22 reminds us: "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones."

We have also learned from surveys that church going people are generally more health than non-church-goers. Being part of a caring, thanks-filled, upward-looking, happy fellowship is good for us. Many factors contribute to a healthy fellowship but at the heart of it is The Eucharist. In my church tradition the word Eucharist, which means to give thanks, is seldom used for the communion service. Perhaps we should use it more often because it is taken directly from the Gospel accounts of the last supper where we are told that Jesus took the bread and the cup "and gave thanks." Consequently, The Eucharist has often been called "The Great Thanksgiving."

It is a very common thing, this giving thanks before a meal. A lot of us do it regularly. It has been done in families for centuries. Certainly, Jesus and his disciples were familiar with it, especially at the Passover, but Jesus took a common practice and gave it a radical new focus as he lifted the bread and the cup and said, "this is my body ... my blood ..." Now, as we focus on Jesus, we have a whole new reason to give thanks.

We bring a lot of baggage with us each Sunday, stuff that weighs us down, makes us feel bad, and even affects our health. How good it is for us to put off the old bitterness of broken relationships, the burning resentment of some injustice, our worries and fears for the future and just be thankful. Thankful for whom Jesus was -- thankful for His death on our behalf -- thankful for god's love so freely given -- and thankful for God's loving and supporting people gathered in worship. Coming to the Lord's Table each week with thanksgiving is a healthy habit.

In Colossians 3:12-15 Paul is not writing directly about the observance of The Eucharist, but his words summarize this healthy habit when he says:

Therefore, as the elect of god, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body;
and be thankful." -- Its good for you!

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