As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of my childhood and the wonderful ritual that was a part of eating at my grandmother’s dinner table. Whenever you sat down to her table, there would be two meats on the table just for regular, ordinary meals. There would be many vegetables, all kinds of desserts, and homemade biscuits. And before grace was said, we would all gather around the table and find our places, and my grandmother would come in from the kitchen, and just kinda walk around the dinner table and find her place. As she went, she would carry in her hand, one more plate or bowl of something. We never could figure out where it was going to go on the table, but she would bring it in, and then with a hankerchief, she would pat the perspiration off of her forehead and she would say: “Now I know it ain’t much, but ya’ll try to make a meal as best you can.”

Now on those high, holy days like Thanksgiving, she prepared even more. On those days I can remember surveying the table and not imagining where one more bowl could be placed, but then behind me on the buffet were all of the desserts that were lined up for the meal. And at the end of the room – on an end table – she used a towel as a table cloth and had even  more over there for us to eat. And sure enough, the same ritual was held.  Just before grace was said, she would come shuffling out of the kitchen with one more bowl in her hand. She would wipe the perspiration off of her forehead and as she went around the table, but on this occasion she would say: “Now if you go away hungry, it’ll be your own fault.”

Early Christian worship began around a dinner table. Eating is not just a Baptist tradition, it’s a Christian tradition. This notion that worship is about eating, about sustaining ourselves on the food of grace, goes back to the very heart of Christian worship and the God that feeds us. Because every time we come to worship it’s like bellying up to my grandmother’s table. There is so much to eat.

And yet, from time to time, I notice that I leave hungry. And you know what? It’s my own fault. Because I’ve come to a wonderful banquet, and somehow I’ve not participated. Too often, you and I walk away hungry, either because we are too lazy, because we didn’t really want to talk to God, or because life itself has weighed us down and our song of hopefulness has left us.

So, as we gather around tables this season with family and friends, may we sense the presence of God and be reminded that we are all a part of God’s family.  And as we gather as the family of Providence, we will sit and grace
will be said and each of us will pick up one of those bowls or plates and pass it around … and the meat of salvation will come; and the potatoes of the Spirit will come; and the gravy of God’s goodness will come; homemade biscuits of forgiveness will come; and the casserole of kindness and mercy will come; and if we walk away hungry; not only will it be our own fault, but it will be a
terrible tragedy.

May you be captivated by the Kingdom of God that permeates all life and gives us cause to be hopeful.