The Thanksgiving Table

Take a look at today’s post by Sarah Bartley.


My Uncle Tom was capable of making anyone he met feel special. Holiday celebrations were often at his (and my Aunt’s) home. I would arrive to find him taking coats, pouring drinks, and giving out hugs and kisses. He would wrap his big arms around me and hold me tightly for about a minute longer than anyone else ever did. He would remark with incredulity (every time) at how it was possible that I was more beautiful than the last time he saw me. Deep inside I knew he didn’t necessarily mean that I had become more physically beautiful but more deeply loved and appreciated as my family shared in my unfolding life. His affection was unwavering.

Eventually the family would assemble at the table for dinner, turning to Tom to say grace. He had a sweet way of talking to the Lord that touched all of us (believer or not). He had the right of first refusal when it came to saying grace. When he did, a curious thing would happen. While munching on hors d’oeuvres the conversation was focused on one another – who had a new job, how school was going, and the like. But when Tom prayed he would turn his prayer to who was missing from the table.

It wasn’t just a theme. Tom never failed to pray for the empty chairs. Sometimes it was a son stationed abroad. Or a sick cousin, a niece working a holiday shift, or a nephew who had moved away. He was thinking about their dearly loved foster children who had moved on or family members long since departed. When Tom prayed, I realized that while he lavished so much affection on each of us, he was carrying many more around in his heart.

We lost Tom to an untimely passing just before Thanksgiving of 2012. As I think of him, I can’t stop thinking about the parable of the feast in Luke 14:15-24. Immediately prior to this passage, Jesus has said a lot of hard things about the kingdom of God to his followers. To more fully illustrate his point, Jesus compares God’s kingdom to a celebratory feast. When all of the preparations have been made it is discovered that there are empty seats around the table. Not everyone will choose the celebration in God’s kingdom. Servants are sent out to bring in the hungry, the homeless, those with disabilities, regarded as unlikely dinner guests. Perhaps they are the ones who can truly understand what it means to need Jesus. Some accept God’s invitation but there is still room.

Perhaps that is enough to chew on for Thanksgiving day. There are always more seats to be had around God’s feast table. Indeed our Father longs to wrap his arms around us and remind us that we are loved today, have always been loved, and always will be loved. Just as his affection for his children is unwavering, we discover that his mind is also on those who perhaps have yet to realize their need of him.

May we have the mind of Christ as we set our own Thanksgiving tables.

2015-11-24 The Thanksgiving Table image

One Response

  1. Steve Crowe says:

    This is not just about Thanksgiving, is it, Sarah? You are always forcing us out of our comfort zones but you do it so gently with stories like this one about a grace-filled uncle. It makes me want to be more like him and like the One he emulated. Thank you!