Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thanksgiving Reimagined

Take a moment and imagine what your Thanksgiving table might look like 3 weeks from now, if you took Jesus's words literally.  

I'm serious.

Picture your table groaning with food, the cute placemats that your kids make and the china you pull out once a year.  Now replace one familiar chair with a wheelchair.  Imagine a person with serious disability sitting there between Aunt Donna and Cousin Mark; one of them will need to help him throughout the meal.  Finally there is your husband, leading in from the living room a lady, bent and blind.  That is the Thanksgiving Jesus had in mind.


Feeling uncomfortable?  Me too.  

If you can't yet imagine that particular Thanksgiving, maybe we could find some ways not SO far out of our comfort zone to obey.  Helping others with their hospitality, working together to offer help or helping acquaintances who are lonely or impoverished could be steps in the right direction.  Let's flesh out some ways that this Thanksgiving we could invite those to our tables who can not repay such hospitality as we can offer. 

1. The volunteer option.  Call your local senior citizen center, nursing home, group home for the disabled, work center for the handicapped, homeless mission, women's shelter etc and see what needs you can fill this holiday season.  They may need servers at a holiday dinner, cooks, money, or simply companions for the terribly lonely.  Bring your children and make a day of it.  I know this season is busy but what better way to be truly thankful?  

2. The hosting option.  If having folks in your home seems to be more than you can tackle, work together with some friends from church.  Get the phone numbers of everyone who has been to your congregation needing groceries, gas money, etc. this month and invite them to a special Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Let others in the congregation help you bring things and make sure that the fellowship room and the church members who are there are warm and welcoming.  If you are willing to stretch a little further, also include others in your community who are impoverished or disabled.  

3. Charity begins at home.  If you are willing to open your home, begin simple.  Look around your own congregation at people you know who would appreciate your hospitality. Start with the widows.  Are there widows in your congregation who don't have family nearby?  Do they have plans for the holiday?  How about college-aged students who may not be able to get home?  Or young professionals living far from home?  When you've run through the ranks of the lonely, ask yourself if there may be a family recently out of work, burdened with bills, or with a terribly ill member, who would appreciate an invitation. If you can't 
bring yourself to share your family's day, make a plan for Friday night or Saturday lunch.  

4. Sold out for Jesus.  I am guessing you know a person or two who is homeless (at least maybe that you pass them pretty regularly on the way to work), out of work or living on the edge of hunger. The next time you see them, stop, smile, touch their hand and ask if they'd like to have Thanksgiving dinner at your house.  

The day that Jesus invited them to focus their hospitality on those who couldn't repay (Luke 14) he was illustrating a principle he stated in the Sermon on the Mount. 
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)  
The work we do that really "counts" for God is the unseen, unpraised, unnoticed work. 

In the context of Luke 14, there's one more parable.  In that story all the "good" people reject their dinner invitations, leaving the host (God) to invite in the lame and poor and blind instead.  When I accepted his invitation, I acknowledged I was  helpless and worthless without him. It's my gratitude for the invitation that he offered me that empowers me to answer Jesus' call.  This Thanksgiving or any day that I offer the gift of hospitality to one who can not repay, I am merely mimicking the Father who welcomes me.

It's at this point that I would normally ask you to come back and leave me a comment letting me know what you did and how it came out.  But this one time, don't.  In the true spirit of this commandment, don't tell anybody.  Just keep it between you and God, a little secret offering of thanksgiving to the one who gave you everything. 

PS- Do come back on Friday though and read more about this interesting passage in Luke 14 and how terrible a house guest Jesus could be!
Helene
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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