Dear liturgical theologian friends, please do not panic. I did not attempt to celebrate a sacrament using the elements named in my blog title. Bear with me.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Many of my Facebook friends have been preparing by posting one thing for which they are thankful each day. I prepared by rewatching the How I Met Your Mother episodes “Slapsgiving” and “Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap.” Not sure what that says about me.
I’ve done the daily thanksgiving thing before. Last Lent, I took on journalling each day, and as part of that, I would list things for which I was thankful. I was inspired to do this by Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, which, though problematic in its approach to suffering, helped me in a time when I needed to rediscover gratitude.
I often went into this exercise begrudgingly, grumpily jotting down generic things like “family” and “friends,” snarkily adding “chocolate” to the list (though seriously, I am thankful for chocolate every day). But the more I made it a discipline, the easier it became to think of things for which I was thankful, and the more I noticed and gave thanks for things I might otherwise have overlooked.
Last Thanksgiving, I blogged about how the statement “I’m thankful to be alive” went from something I’d have taken for granted and thought not worth mentioning to something very serious as we celebrated 2 months since my sister’s boyfriend Shane survived a near-death experience. Tomorrow, Shane will join us for Thanksgiving again, and we will celebrate 14 months of a miraculous recovery.
On Sunday, I assisted in leading a worship service at Forsyth Correctional Center with other members of Centenary UMC. We shared in robust worship with the inmates at this minimum security prison, then together we went downstairs for snack and an activity.
As we started in on our Goldfish and Capri Sun, the prison chaplain asked us to go around, say our name (first names only, per prison rules), and share one thing we are thankful for this Thanksgiving season. These men are mostly on their way home; many of them work out in the community and are preparing to reenter society. Here are some of the things for which they gave thanks:
“For being alive.”
“For God changing my heart.”
“For a second chance.”
Together we ate our snack and worked on a crossword puzzle based on Luke 17, when Jesus heals 10 lepers but only one returns to thank him. When we successfully completed the puzzle, I fist bumped all of the inmates.
When I posted a quip about the experience on Facebook, fellow blogger David Henson commented that the scene of sharing snacks and fellowship with prisoners sure sounded like a eucharist to him.
How true–especially since the Greek word eucharisteo means “give thanks.”
Tomorrow, I will gather with my family around a table for a heavy, delicious meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and more. But it won’t be my first Thanksgiving meal this week.
I may never have another Goldfish-and-Capri-Sun eucharist in a prison again, but on Sunday, the men at Forsyth Correctional showed me a little more about what it means to share eucharisteo. And for that, I am thankful.