#SaveThanksgiving is a trend I am seeing online-maybe there is hope yet!
Thanksgiving is a great holiday. The gospels, especially the gospel of Luke, share quite a bit about Jesus also joining people around tables to share a meal. There are at least 8 occasions in Luke alone! (5:27-32, 7:36-50, 9:10-17, 10:38-42 [implied], 11:37-52, 14:1-24, 19:1-10 [implied], 22:14-38, 24:28-32, 24:36-43)
He ate with tax collectors, sinners, followers, crowds, pharisees, lawyers, apostles, and many others who were guests at these tables.
Jesus recognized the power and influence of gathering around a table for a meal and a conversation. These were not simply occasions to fill the belly, but to fill souls. He offered himself at these tables in different ways--for healing, guiding, teaching, leading, and simply to be a guest in someone's house. So as you gather around your tables of thanksgiving, know that you are doing one of the things that Jesus loved to do, and thought it was important to do!
This Sunday in the life of the church, also known as the liturgy, we Christians observe Christ the King Sunday. This image of Jesus Christ as King does not really match up well with him dining at tables in other people's homes, does it? When I picture a King eating, it is at some banquet hall in a palace, not at a wooden table next to someone else's porch or living room. In Jesus Christ, we have a complete picture of what a King is: he lays down his life for those who loves, he works for peace and justice in the world, and he calls his people to model his behavior, so that we may find life and purpose here. So, that's why he eats with people in their own homes and places. That is why he died on a cross. And that is why he has the heart, and the authority, to ask us to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22: 37-39).
Our gospel focus will be Matthew 25: 31-46. Take a moment to read it...
The lesson begins in a grand way: the Son of Man will come and judge the nations on his throne with the angels surrounding. Everyone will be there, and the Son of Man will begin the final judgement. This sort of imagery and language was quite similar to what those gathered have heard. It echoes some of the psalms and passages in Ezekiel and Daniel.
But then Jesus starts saying things they have never heard before. He begins talking about who will come into the Kingdom of God, and it won't be the righteous that they expect. It will be those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the lonely. Jesus says that when you do these things for God, God will welcome you. These are the "least of these" that Jesus speaks of. They are the people in need around you. They are your neighbors. When you see them, Jesus posits, you see the face of God. "But when did we do this for you?" they asked. "You did it for me, when you did it for those in need." Christ is the King. Amen.
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.
Neighbors are rich and poor,
varied in color and race,
neighbors are near and far away.
These are the ones we should serve,
these are the ones we should love;
all these are neighbors to us and you.
*The United Methodist Hymnal, 432.