11-27-19 - Food and Family

(You can listen to this reflection here.)

Ask most Americans what they associate with Thanksgiving, and most will answer, “Food and family.” Some might add, “And stress.” This is one holiday when making the food can cause stress, which we seek to relieve by eating too much food – a nice little cycle that leads nowhere good (throw in too much alcohol, and things really get interesting...).

Back when I was planning alternative worship every week, I wrote a lot of sermon dramas. One of the most fun – and elaborate – was at Thanksgiving time one year, called “The Martha Show.” It depicted a TV cooking show featuring a famous Martha. Not Martha of Westport, though the character shared many of her attributes. This one was Martha of Bethany, whose dinner party for Jesus got her so stressed out she became royally ticked off at her sister for not helping. (Sound like a Thanksgiving scene you’ve seen?)

And in the midst of prepping for her Thanksgiving show, an unexpected guest arrives early. Not what our Martha wanted. She wanted to make a beautiful dinner for Jesus, not with Jesus. And she wants her sister to help, damn it! But Mary recognizes that when this guest comes to dinner, you need to stop what you’re doing and receive the gifts he brings.

We can get so busy preparing for Thanksgiving that we barely appreciate the time with our loved ones when it arrives. Same thing, in a broader way, can happen during Advent. In a season meant to help us prepare to receive the gift of Christ in our lives, we sometimes get so busy preparing we miss the fact that he’s already showed up.

Jesus’ words to Martha in the gospel story are simple and pointed: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and worked up about many things. Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part, and it will not be taken from her.”

If you are happy and at peace today, hallelujah – spread some of that peace to someone stressed.

And if you’re worrying and fretting about anything today, stop and imagine Jesus walking into whatever place you’re in, and saying, “Hey, hey, you are worried and fretting. You don’t need to. You have everything you need – I’m here.” Try that on, in prayer, in your imagination today. One of God’s promises is peace when we pray, and presence, and power.

Wherever you’re spending Thanksgiving this year, and whoever you’re spending it with, invite Jesus to the table. That’s kind of what it means to say grace – to invoke his holy presence. See if it’s different being aware of him there. And don’t forget to pass him the stuffing – they didn’t have that in Judea back in the day…

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