The Thanksgiving festivities are gearing up here at this old house. One daughter got in yesterday, another comes in Tuesday. I have been going through recipes, planning the Thanksgiving menu. I love the November food magazines even more than the December ones, which seem so far removed from what Christian Christmas is all about let alone what a church musician and a pastor can reasonably do around leading multiple services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Plus, the Thanksgiving food magazines are a feast to behold themselves. The lovely food on lovely dishes get my creative juices flowing (no pun intended!). I don’t even necessarily focus on the eating of the food as much as I do making it. I love the creative process of cooking and baking.
Tomorrow, I will make the herbed gluten-free bread that will become the dressing. Tonight at Target, I bought a turkey brining bag and will start that process on Wednesday. Tomorrow, late morning, I will tackle the grocery store, bringing home the natural turkey I pre-ordered as well as a lot of other grocery items for the day (and the rest of the week, as we have to eat something those days as well). Somehow, in all the planning of the Thanksgiving dinner event, it is easy to overlook that there are other meals needed in the days leading up to the main event!
The other day, I dropped off the food bag to Emergency Family Assistance (EFAA). Each week at the grocery store, I buy a can of something from their requested items list and then periodically take it in to be distributed to those facing food insecurity. I wanted to get the cans of refried beans I had been collecting to them in plenty of time to help with their Thanksgiving distribution. The volunteer who took my offering was delighted as they had been out of refried beans for a while. It is very humbling to realize that tomorrow, I will buy whatever I need and want without thinking twice about it, while a plastic sack of canned refried beans is going to make a real difference to someone else’s ability to eat this week. Making the periodic trip to EFAA is a good spiritual discipline for me as I struggle with my own tendency to overeat while too many, even in my affluent town, go hungry.
The Gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday, which this year came before Thanksgiving, is the Matthew 25 parable of the sheep and the goats. This famous parable of judgment is about sheep who fed and clothed those around them and the goats who didn’t. It’s deeper teaching can be summed up simply: the sheep (the righteous, the blessed) noticed those around them and sought to meet their needs while the goats (the unrighteous) didn’t. Both the sheep and the goats ask God the same question: when did we see you hungry or thirsty, naked, a stranger or in prison? The sheep want to know which of the many they cared for were Christ and the goats want to know how they missed seeing Christ. The punch line is that it is in the least and the last that Christ is found and that in some mysterious way, when we care for those, we care for Christ. It boils down to paying attention to others;in other words, it isn’t always all about me.
There is more than one way to be hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger or in prison and the question Jesus asks in the parable relates to intentional living in the world. Do I really see those around me or are they just a blur in the background of my self-referential agenda? Where can I feed someone’s soul with beauty and kindness or clothe their insecurity and vulnerability in a tense situation? Where can I rain showers of blessing into their dry and barren heart or help them break out of the prison of negative self-talk? Actual food, clothing, and hospitality count as well.
Feasting is good especially when it really is about stopping and saying “thank you.” We need true feasts in life but they are meant to be life-giving to those involved with them, to the earth, to those who work to provide the ingredients for them. Whenever we exploit the earth or people so we can celebrate, something has gone awry.
My grocery sack of refried beans won’t save the world from hunger but hopefully, it will save me from forgetting the poor and therefore, losing my soul. Those refried beans may be doing more for me than they are for those who receive them. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!