It’s that time of the year again. It’s that time when we take a couple of days off to celebrate the beginning of our country and our thankfulness for all that we have.
Thursday means a lot of things to different people. Some are excited about football they can watch during the day, others are excited about extra time off from work, many look forward to getting the whole family together and just being together, and most of us look forward to the excuse to eat too much.
The great majority of us love to eat and there is nothing wrong with that (for the most part). I have one family member who puts on his “eating pants” to start the day on Thanksgiving. They are simply a pair of sweatpants with an elastic waistband. He says that way he does not have to let out a notch in his belt as the day goes on. He takes the eating thing to a whole new level.
Eating is more than just satisfying your taste buds and feeling uncomfortable. Eating is actually a social interaction that we share and brings us together. My wife had a rule when our kids were at home that no matter how busy our day was we were all supposed to gather together for the evening meal; even if it was just a takeout dinner, we would all be together and talk with each other about our day over food.
Quite often our kids’ friends would be there and eat with us. For a number of years after they had graduated, several of their friends would stop by, suspiciously around dinner time, to say hi. I guess they liked the food too, and hopefully the company.
Eating is mentioned in the Bible many times, and Jesus in the New Testament used eating as a way to become closer to those he was with. It was with Zaccheus the tax collector and his friends that Jesus sat down and had a meal together. Later when speaking to a group of over 5,000 people who had gathered to hear him, they became hungry and he provided the meal for them, miraculously using only five loaves of bread and two fish – they even had leftovers.
In his most well-known meal, the Passover meal that he shared with his disciples the night before he was crucified, he broke bread and drank wine during the meal to illustrate his death. Three days later, after he had been killed on the cross, he appeared before his disciples and shared a meal of fish to show that he was not a ghost but literally had risen from the dead as he said he would.
Eating together in the Bible most often was a way to build and reinforce friendships, family and community. Eating together was a big deal. It brings to mind a time when Jesus during his ministry was addressed by his disciples. Obviously they were concerned that he had not eaten and were encouraging him to eat. Here is what that conversation looked like when they asked him to eat:
“But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples were saying to one another, ‘No one brought him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work’” (John 4:32-34).
Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, certainly would get hungry just like you and me, and his disciples knew that. He revealed his priorities by telling them it was more important at that moment to do the work that God his father had given him to do than it was to eat. Doing God’s will was more important to him than satisfying his appetite. It was intended to be a great lesson for his followers: Doing what God wants is more important than what we want. It was a great lesson then and is still a great lesson today.
On Thursday most likely we will be eating a lot of food and perhaps have the ability to share it with family and/or friends. We will be reinforcing the community that we have.
The most important lesson that should come to mind for us as we dine is to ask ourselves if we are in community with God. Like Jesus, it’s good for us to remember that being in God’s will and in relationship with God is still the most important thing. I pray that we are all mindful of this very thing on Thanksgiving. Have a great Thanksgiving!
The Rev. John Myers is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Salida.