Thanksgiving – what a wonderful celebration!  Primarily observed in the U.S., the holiday is roughly traced to days of the pilgrims and a particularly good harvest in the 1620’s, followed later by some declarations of colonial governors, setting into motion a tradition that is welcomed in homes and institutions to present day.  While some other countries practice similar social gatherings, some with religious overtones, and others with strictly secular tones, none seem as permanently wedded to Thanksgiving celebration as the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Practiced annually since the 1600’s, Thanksgiving was declared a holiday by presidential order in 1863, and calendared to the forth Thursday in November by federal legislation in 1941.  It is fitting that families gather around a bountiful table meal (hopefully together), to offer thanks.  For those who lead in Christian worship regularly, this time of year presents a fertile opportunity to remind congregants of their duties to engage their families in a time of gathered worship.  We would do well to pray that such a time might spur mothers and fathers to a commitment to a more frequent period of humbling hearts in this spirit of giving thanks to the One Who is Giver, Provider, Sustainer.  For this is the very spirit of what worship is all about, gathered and separate.  He who worships is by definition grateful.

While the theologies of worship in different church traditions will certainly be characterized by their unique and diverse understandings of what occurs in worship, they, nevertheless, are all characterized by a spirit and direction of gratitude expressed to God in Christ.  Historic Christian worship liturgies are resplendent with expressions and spirit of gratitude.  The worshiper who attends the most formal of churches will surely often repeat words of gratitude, “Thanks be to God.”  The heart of a Eucharist service is understood to be thanksgiving.  The word, “Eucharist,” in fact, means thanksgiving, even though it is sometimes also used to refer to aspects and elements of a Eucharistic service.  Whether Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran, the intention to lift up grateful hearts is clearly central to gathered worship.

On the other end of the ecumenical spectrum, the charismatic congregation’s worship will likely emphasize a vital relationship with the Holy Spirit and the recovery of spiritual gifts, seeking to experience both in the present.  Those of the Holiness-Pentecostal tradition of worship find a key element of worship to be praise, whereby the Christian praises God for his character and for His deeds of salvation and healing.

Somewhere between we find other worship traditions and theologies.  Worship in Reformed churches often emphasizes the sovereign transcendence of God and the frailty and sinfulness of humans, centering worship in the Word which proclaims and enacts the Gospel.  Baptist worship, as other traditions, seeks to root worship in scripture, and often relies on specific texts of the day to become organizing principle, but also maintains a sensitivity to evangelistic emphases.  Non-denominational churches most often seem to worship loosely in the tradition of whatever faith tradition was formative to their current pastoral leadership.

In all of these cases, a centerpiece of worship is an attitude of gratitude.  Community ecumenical Thanksgiving Worship services are more prevalent than any other seasonal gathering of diverse Christian bodies.  Why?  I say it is because a clear centerpiece of  all Christian worship is this – We Are Thankful.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Explore posts in the same categories: Leading Worship, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

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