Later this week one of the great traditions of our community will begin at 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Thursday Thanksgiving Day at St. Leo’s Hall in the Assumption Catholic School.
For many years St. James Episcopal Church has hosted a Community Thanksgiving dinner and needing more room they have accepted the accommodations from Blessed Sacrament Parish and the help of dozens of community volunteers and generous community donations. Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings will be served to any person or family who comes through the doors or orders a take-out meal to be delivered. If you have never been there to help prepare and serve or enjoy this feast of gratitude, then you are missing out. It is truly a celebration of our community’s commitment to show those in need that we care.
This reminds me of one of the great Gospel imperatives from our Lord which we call his preference for “the least, the last, the lost and the lonely.” Time and time again Jesus in the Scriptures reminds us that those who are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, those who feel abandoned or lost, those that have nowhere to turn to are favored and loved by God. It is no wonder that the favorite Scripture verse of St. Theresa of Calcutta was the one that spells out this concern in Matthew 25:40, 45, NIV) “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”
Concerning those last, Jesus said on several occasions in the Scriptures like this one in Matthew, “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30). To be clear, this reference is about heaven, but in God’s eyes so above is how it should be below. These words were spoken to a very rich man. A man who according to his own accounting could truthfully say he had kept the Ten Commandments of God. But when Jesus asked him to sell all he had and come follow him he could not. Jesus saw beneath the surface to the man’s heart that in truth he coveted his wealth and possessions and had these as his idols beyond all else. To be wealthy is not a sin but according to Jesus those who have little are much closer to the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps the most famous story in the Scriptures about the lost is the story of the lamb who strayed away from the flock (Luke 15:3-7). “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Can there be any doubt about God’s preference? As Jesus would say about his mission, Luke 19:10 ESV: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
The least, the last, the lost — you may not be any of these but I think there are none of us who cannot say we have never been lonely. To long for a friend, to be greeted by a smile, to know we are not alone no matter what the road ahead may be through sickness, or family death or disintegration and despair is truly one of life’s greatest needs. This too is a promise of Scripture as we have a loving, caring and giving church family to be with us, to walk with us, and care about us. As has so aptly been said many times, we are the hands and feet of Christ.
This Thanksgiving if you are having a family meal, is it possible you could set just one more seat for the lonely neighbor down the block or that widow who has no family close by? Surely there is someone you will meet this week that would welcome your invitation and enjoy a meal with new-found friends. And if God lays it on your heart, maybe you could volunteer to help at the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner. You might truly find some friends among the least, the last, the lost and the lonely that day. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Pastor Terry L. Tilton,