Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Our God Who Comes to Dinner

Most families have some event or activity that develops into a full-fledged tradition.  In my family it was Thanksgiving.

We always got up early and drove to my grandparent’s house. Gram did the cooking because she was the best at it and her preparations began long in advance. No detail was spontaneous. Nothing was ever omitted.

One year we attempted to have it at our house; it was a disaster. The turkey was over-done. The pies were under-done. And everything that was done, wasn’t done at the same time. No one suggested we ever move it again.

There were two prerequisites for the meal: dress up in church clothes, and don’t eat anything until the appetizers are served. It was an unpardonable sin to arrive for Thanksgiving at Gram’s and not be hungry.

When we gathered around the table, our stories represented the sacred fabric of our family history. Repetition never lessened their value. Through replication, laughter, and sometimes tears, we consoled failures, celebrated triumphs, and spoke grace into one another.

Then Thanksgiving changed forever.

I’ll never forget. We already knew that Gram had lung cancer. She was dying.  “A few more months…” is all the doctors could tell us. On some level I knew she would never lie about such a thing, but I didn’t want to believe her.  Perhaps the doctors were mistaken.  How could this happen?

Then in October, Grandpa had a fatal stroke while putting on his golf shoes to go “play a few holes” with his friends. Even though she was shocked and grieving, Gram insisted that we all have one last Thanksgiving at her house. We knew it would be our last. My mother and I helped more than we usually did. Gram was already short of breath and very tired, and of course she cried throughout the day.

The menu stayed the same: turkey, stuffing with onion and celery—nothing weird like cornbread or shellfish—the same side dishes and pies. This meal had everything. We worked very hard to capture the sameness of years past. But we couldn’t.

Gram insisted that we set a place for Grandpa at the head of the table.

I wonder about the first “family” meal the disciples had after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Did they remember with joy the times He had spent with them? Did they linger in regret, realizing all the questions they wished they had asked while he was present? Was the table set with one extra place, just in case…? Did any of them ever say, “Let me tell you about that last Passover meal we had with him. It was in a room just like this one…”

Were there apostles who-- like my family that year-- missed his physical presence so deeply that after the food was brought to the table, they could not eat at all.

On our last traditional Thanksgiving we sat silently in our places, diligently inspecting our plates so we wouldn’t have to see the chair that was empty. Then, we all stood and left the table.

My family’s Thanksgiving and the Lord’s Supper both hold elements of mystery for me. They represent perfect meals served to those of us who are far from perfect. In some inexplicable way, it is our imperfections that make them perfect. We are invited to come authentically to both tables with no attempt to hide our secrets and flaws.

On Thanksgiving Husband and I gratefully remember the friends and family who have touched our lives. At the Lord’s Supper we remember who sent them.

“Do this in remembrance of me…” (Luke 22:19)