This week most of us will be attending a Thanksgiving dinner.
For everybody’s family this means something different.
§ Turkey or Ham or Tacos and Enchiladas
§ Mashed potatoes or Sweet Potatoes / Both
§ Cranberry sauce or Gel
§ Pumpkin Pie
§ Noodles or Dumplings “Chicken and” or “Beef and”
§ Biscuits or Rolls
o Some change families or eat as a guest in someone’s home and what does that do to the Holiday for us?
o Kids Table or one table
o Football or a Movie
o Women Cook /Men eat and sleep
o Men Cook / Women eat and talk
How many of you have been to a Thanksgiving dinner where no prayer of thanks was given? Odd isn’t it? But if you are not a believer it isn’t odd at all
For so many people in this country Thanksgiving is about tradition and not about giving Thanks to the one who gave us everything. You see to them… (me 9 years ago) this Holiday is about
· Family time together
· Feasting on great food
· Watching Football
· Oh yeah and remembering that our forefathers had great help from the native “Americans” and that we became great friends…
o Who we gave smallpox
o Cheated out of land
o Killed their women and children (but hey this was mutual)
o And finally drove into concentration camps till they agreed to take large plots of unusable land and eventually build casinos to take revenge on gullible Americans who can’t do math… But I digress.
People really don’t get it.
There is a radio talks show host named Colleen Cowheard who says, “People who don’t get it, don’t get that they don’t get it.”
There is even a bigger problem than that looming in this room right now. Some of us as Christians don’t observe the holiday as anything more than football and food.
Look… Here is the truth of the matter. Let’s speak frankly… How many of us really pray over a normal meal when we are not at the Church?
I will tell on me… It is only in the past few years that I have started to pray over a meal. And I have had to make a big effort to pray over a hamburger in the car while I’m driving down that road in a hurry.
A Marine friend of mine told me that as he worked guarding Muslim prisoners in Iraq he observed something that was comical to him. He observed that certain men that were brought in showed no outward sign of being Muslim. They did not openly pray, and they did not ask for or read the Quran.
But when a fellow Muslim was brought onto the same cell block they would both resume the tenants of their faith. They would ask to be given a Quran, they would pray the minimum 5 times a day, etc.
He found this funny… I found it disturbing.
Because it showed the Muslim’s who were on a Holy War where not so Holy? No…
It was because it made me wonder how many people in my faith could be recognized by their actions.
Why is this so horrifying to me? If you go on the Internet and look at ways to spot a Christian or how to recognize one what you will find mostly is sarcasm and atheistic humor about the fact that there aren’t many Christians who act in any way that they would like to act or would like to be acted upon.
So if that is the case, then how enthused do you think these people are going to be about following Jesus Christ?
Let’s flip it back around to my friend. If my friend had no preconception of how a Muslim man behaved and was searching for a relationship with God. Then as he was told to guard these men he noticed that even when they were alone they prayed regularly and read the scriptures; If these men when they found each other were so loving and caring for each other; If they cared for each other and seldom if ever had a cross word to say to each to or about each other; What if these men treated everyone (even enemies) with respect and kindness when possible?
Would my friend still be laughing at there faith? What would happen to his chances of being converted to the Muslim faith?
Now let’s take the shoe back off and put it on our foot. Feel comfortable?
“But I don’t want to make a big production number about being a Christian.”
No one is asking you to. But you must be one.
Over the next few days, and frankly for the rest of your life as a Christian, people are going to be watching you and reading you. They are going to judging Jesus Christ; what He is about, what He has to offer them, and why to follow Him, through you.
“Well Peachy! Now I am responsible for the free world finding Jesus!”
No, Just the ones you meet. Look… You can’t convert anyone.
Actually what you are responsible for is only making sure that you are a genuine believer in Jesus Christ. That is it… Just that simple…. Or is it?
What is the job description? We’ve said it about 100 times in the last two weeks. It is on our sign out front…
Love God and Love People
But how will that show.
34″A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So what is the mission for the Holidays?
13″You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
14″You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
So your job is to offer to pray for the meal and highjack the prayer into a sermonette on how those who do not believe will burn in Hell. Right?
OK, loudly explain that even if they choose not to join you in prayer you will ask the Lord to bless their food anyway. Although they do not deserve it.
Minimally, take each unsaved person aside and explain that you would be willing to meet them on the porch at a designated time to lead them to salvation.
Wait… Here is the thing. Even Jesus didn’t do those things. In fact he made fun of people who did those things.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
No, return to the marching orders.
- Be a Peacemaker…
- Humble yourself
- Find places to kill confusion
- If someone else offers the prayer, Praise God. But if not find the host and offer to pray for the meal. Then Give Thanks.
- If you are rebuffed pray silently for yourself or as a small family group, but don’t make a show or show anyone up in doing it.
- Give an extra hug or twelve
- Eat heartily and enjoy the day
- This is a feast of thanks for your savior / your God
In the book “The Celtic Way of Evangelism” George Hunter III speaks of how hospitality and a willingness to be among people without persecuting them helped build the Christian faith in Ireland.
Patrick (yes, a.k.a, St. Patrick) taught that community Love meant more than sacrament when relating God to men. As part of conquering Ireland with the Christian faith he would build communities of Christian people whose job it was to represent the Love of God to the world.
Whenever someone new came into town all other concerns were dropped in order to make sure that this person knew the Love of God. One example he gives is that of a person who has set aside time in his life to fast. If someone were to show up at his door then the person’s first duty was to make the person feel at home. Offer them room to stay in while in town, offer them company, and to share meals with this person.
This was not to make the point that making a human comfortable is more important than God. Quite the contrary; showing someone God’s Love is more important than sacrifice.
Let’s go back and check what Jesus said to us in Matthew.
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
He is not saying that you are the source of the light or that you are here to save the world. He is saying the people will praise God, see his light, and want to know God because of the light you reflect.
John 1:8-9 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
You reflect the light of God. To quote the song writer Chris Rice:
“Cause We are a family whose hearts are blazing
So let’s raise our candles and light up the sky
Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus
Make us a beacon in darkest times
So Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world”