Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays growing up. I ignored the “giving thanks” part, and was focused on one thing: Preparing to eat as much food as humanly possible. Each year, I’d sit down in front of a wonderful feast prepared by my mother, devour it, and sit in a food-coma stupor in front of the football game for the rest of the evening. And then, when it got dark: leftovers! All the dishes would come back out and we’d stuff our faces all over again.
But something happened somewhere in my teenage years; I was asked to help with the dinner. It started with the table settings: “Well, you know how it goes. Can you just set it up?”
It moved toward “This year you can make the mashed potatoes.”
It has ended with, “One day soon, you’ll take over hosting Thanksgiving and I’ll come to you.”
What? This food didn’t magically appear? I was introduced to the hours of sacrifice it took to prepare the meal, clean the house, and coordinate the guests.
Sitting down to the table after understanding the work involved, I became much more aware of others eating beside me. Did Uncle Joe get enough of the potatoes? Did everyone get the corn passed around? My vision moved from my own plate to accessing the needs of others.
I remember the moment that Thanksgiving as I knew it was over. Enjoying the food and wanting more, my mind thought “I’ll have another slice of turkey.” However, eyeing the emptying plate, out of my mouth came “Would you like the last of the turkey? Have some more!” My stomach was astonished at my words but there the turkey went on Grandma’s plate.
Christ’s table works the same way. Every day, Jesus prepares a feast. It is a main course of love dished up with slices of mercy, dressed with forgiveness, and stuffed with compassion. You have to have your healthy veggies of counsel too, but balanced with a sweet dessert of peace and grace.
When we first come into a relationship with Christ, we do what I did at Thanksgiving as a child. We stuff our faces, starving for His word and the gifts of presence in our lives. We focus on ourselves, because we need the nourishment. We hear ourselves saying: “I’ll have another slice of Mercy, Lord.” Maybe 10, please.
But we can’t hoard the gifts of Jesus forever. Everything we eat at that table, we have to be prepared to give to someone else. For everything God has prepared for you,H e has also made a to-go plate for your neighbor, and it is up to you to deliver it. Are you willing? Maybe you can’t give the whole meal at once, but learn to hand over a side dish. Learn about the sacrifice, because you know that Jesus’ blood, sweat, and tears went into the meal he prepared, and his work shouldn’t be wasted.
Let’s start with mercy. Instead of “I’ll have another slice of Mercy,” we have to learn to say “Can I give you a slice of mercy today? Your plate looks like it needs it.”
Jesus instructs us in the great commandment to Love our neighbor as ourselves. Everything you want to feast on from God’s table, bring to others.
To those who are given more, more is expected. So, eat that one more slice of mercy. Beg for it day in and day out, but then be prepared to dish it out on all your neighbor’s plates. Ask and you shall receive, but when you receive, be willing to share.
The kingdom of God is dependent on the chain reaction of love we have for one another. We are thankful for God’s feast. We are thankful that the nourishment will never run out. May we learn to spread that feast to others in gratitude for what was given to us.
–Megan Cottam, BSL
(Originally preached at the Near North Ministry Gospelfest, 11/18/2012)
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