Come hungry. Really? It seems everyone is stuffed to the gills these days. Whoever would want a Thanksgiving turkey?
I had a delicious and delightful lunch with old high school friends this week. It was coordinated by a friend who is a Muslim, whose family emigrated here from Pakistan in 1958. (I didn’t know this about her when we were in high school, but now I do.) I had contacted her about “things Muslim” in my sports writing about Ramadan and the World Cup athletes and more recently about quotes I heard bandied about in anti-Muslim rhetoric. What I have learned about me is, I do better when I “seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”
This was alive and well among these friends, nerds all, of a sort: male and female, married and not, widowed and not, children and none. Employed, retired, stay at home, volunteer. Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, agnostic … quite diverse, except for our ages. We were once classmates and, now take an interest in what was important and meaningful to the other. Conversation is lively and relationship comes alive. Current events are front and center, honesty and forthrightness abounding. I just love these people. I was hungry for their company.
Afterward, I joined my Muslim friend at a gathering of community leaders, religious leaders and citizens in Montgomery County where I felt more companionship than I sometimes feel among “my own kind” these days. As some leading Christians claim that God put Donald Trump in office, the dissension in our own ranks is palpable. I keep asking, how could people following the same Lord be headed in such different directions?
Then I see this Amazon commercial and think, that is simply genius. How can anyone disagree with that? Yet, one commenter did, saying, “Supporting magical thinking, regardless of what you call your imaginary friend, is still harmful to humanity and the planet at large. Theism is a form of mental illness that needs treatment … cult… addict … delusion,” Seventy people gave her the thumbs up. The originator of the post replied frankly but politely and got many more thumbs ups. Still, I am shocked at this viewpoint I did not know even existed, let alone had a healthy following. Where did this distrust and hatred of God come from?
These times have been allowed by God (if we believe in a sovereign God). I don’t think He wanted this for us, but this is what we have chosen for ourselves. As Dusty Baker, manager of the Washington Nationals baseball team, said (and I heard prophetically) about removing his starting pitcher from a game, “I didn’t take him out. He took himself out.”
We are a people who hunger and thirst for God, yet we come to the table so full we don’t want Thanksgiving. God will not force feed us, and He would have every right to excuse us. But, in His great mercy, He invites us to sit and eat among those who disagree and with those who are disagreeable to teach us how to pitch in such a way that we can go the whole 9 innings, and one day pitch the perfect game that He catches.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Wendy, the Kinesthetic Christian
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t,” my neighbor says to my offer of a fruit tart.
“You’re SO disciplined,” my other neighbor comments, as she helps herself.
I have invited them to my house to share the tarts. I have made them especially for the occasion. Prepared them lovingly, presented them carefully and attractively, included only healthy ingredients. And yet, one declines, and it is said of her…you are disciplined.
I come to the communion rail and accept the piece of bread from the hand of the pastor. “Wendy, this is Christ’s body, broken for you.”
I dip it in the cup and hear, “Wendy, this is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”
I say amen. And I eat. Not to be graphic or anything, but some of it sticks to my teeth and the roof of my mouth. And I think, oh, I want to consume every morsel. Wouldn’t want to waste a crumb. And then I remember my kitchen table and think…
What if I came to Christ’s table and said, “Oh no, I couldn’t”?
Ironically, my neighbor declined the tart as an expression of guilt. Speaking but not saying, I can’t eat that tart because I feel guilty about the weight I’ve gained. It’s not discipline she is speaking, it’s shame. I wonder how many don’t approach Christ’s table because they are ashamed. Unaware of the grace offered there. How many decline His offering because others might see them and judge them unworthy.
It is certainly true that I haven’t earned the right to eat that bread and drink that wine. But Christ died so I might change my “Oh, I couldn’t” to His “Yes, you can.” And not only that. He stands beside me as I do and says, “You’re so disciplined.” And He means it.
God is a God of paradox. In His Kingdom, consumption is disciplined. Who turns away the bread of life? Eat up and follow Me.
We do have an odd and often unhealthy relationship with consumption in our country because we know our own willpower to be lacking and our discipline to be weak, especially when no one is watching. Funny how in community, when everyone is watching, we can discover a “renewed discipline.”
As Holy week approaches and Easter morning dawns I pray we can gather as especially large and forgiving communities and resist the urge to look right and left at who might be thinking what about our presence. Let’s be disciplined about looking one way. Upward at the cross. Perhaps we will hear the words again, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And for a moment we will feast without guilt or shame at a table where we are completely welcome. We’ve been invited. Our host expects us to eat what He has prepared.
***I wish all who read this a most Holy Week and a joyous Easter. The KC will continue in the week that follows. He is risen indeed. Amen.***