Every year we gather some “foodie” friends for what has become a beloved tradition: Mock Thanksgiving. It’s like a dry run for a Thanksgiving that we’d never actually serve to our families, an excuse to experiment with a menu that, for most of us, is set in stone for the actual day.
Mock Thanksgiving is a meal my mother would not approve, one in which creativity trumps tradition. The standard turkey gives way to an herb-roasted bird stuffed with onions and lemons. Ordinary mashed potatoes are usurped by garlic smashed new potatoes. In place of green beans almandine, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with cranberries and goat cheese. And the ultimate desecration (by my mother’s East Coast reckoning): in place of bread stuffing, cornbread chorizo dressing that’s never seen the inside of a bird. We dine al fresco on these foods offered to the idols of our culinary creativity, savoring every minute of this forbidden meal, this work of holiday fiction.
As much as I love Mock Thanksgiving, I have to admit that I, too, want Thanksgiving Day to follow its time-honored script. I associate certain dishes with that day and that day alone. They may not win awards for culinary achievement, but that’s hardly the point—they taste like a homecoming. They are a remembrance of Thanksgivings past, an assembly of recipes faithfully prepared just as some dear relative made them for decades. On this day of remembrance, the very food itself is a remembrance of those who have shaped who we are.
The Bible is full of meals of remembrance, of sacred repetitions, of significant repasts. The idea permeates the Passover meal instituted to remind God’s people of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Roast lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread—reminders to thankfulness and watchfulness and freedom. It permeates the Lord’s Supper—wine and broken bread—a gathering of the family of believers in which the food itself is a remembrance of him who has shaped who we are. Reminders to thankfulness and watchfulness and freedom.
Joy and Dread
On some level, every gathering of family around a table is a shadow of this idea of remembrance, a time when we recall our collective history, making days like Thanksgiving ones we anticipate with a mix of joy and dread, depending on who will pull up a chair to the feast. Why? Because our collective history is often dotted with land mines—difficult personalities, past hurts, broken relationships. For many of us, our Thanksgiving table will be populated by more than just our current incarnations. We will dine with a host of our past selves, clinging to the hope that familiar recipes will preserve the ties of family until the pie has been served and the door has closed behind the last guest.
Which is why days like Thanksgiving are not merely calls to remembrance but also calls to forgetfulness—no, not the forgetfulness of lost car keys or misplaced TV remotes, but the intentional forgetting of what has gone before, the setting aside of past offenses, the laying down of our claims to restitution for old wounds. We are called to a forgetful forgiveness of others—the kind our heavenly Father practices toward us—in which we decide not to remember. Though the record of our hurts may never fade from our consciousness, we consciously set it aside. It’s a deliberate forgetfulness of the offenses of others and a studied forgetfulness of the sins of our own past—a refusal to let them continue to dictate the course of our decisions and reactions.
This is hard for us. We tend to remember what should be forgotten and forget what should be remembered. We tend to make sacred repetition of the ways we have been harmed, of the ways we have harmed others. Unbelievably, we choose to dine on food sacrificed to the idols of our hurts and failures rather than on the bread of redemption and the wine of forgiveness. Mock Thanksgiving. And yet, every table where family gathers is an invitation to dine on the forgetful remembrance that has been shown to us in Christ, a chance to embrace and to demonstrate the ministry of remembering what matters and forgetting what does not.
Flavors of Homecoming
So if your Thanksgiving table threatens not to mirror Rockwellian bliss, consider this recipe of forgetful remembrance as part of your annual gathering:
Remember your Egypt. Remember your bondage to sin. Remember your path to freedom. Remember the deeds of the Lord, ponder his works, meditate on his mighty deeds. Like your heavenly Father, remember mercy and set aside wrath. Not all at your table have tasted freedom.
Forget your Egypt. Forget the sins you loved more than your freedom. Forget the offenses of others against you. Forget to be angry, defensive, hurt, crippled by that which has come before. Forget as your sins have been forgotten. Not all at your table are capable of asking for mercy. Ladle it with liberality anyway.
What gratitude would flow from this exercise? What thanksgiving? For those who have dined on the sacred, the Thanksgiving table becomes a feast of forgetful remembrance. For forgetful remembrance is grace—the taste of a homecoming remembered, the foretaste of a homecoming yet to come. On Thanksgiving years from now when our grandchildren gather to serve this most familiar of meals, may the table still be laid with the flavors of homecoming—may we still be serving the very grace that was served for us, in which all true thankfulness finds its source.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” Genesis 3:6
Eve didn’t take and eat of the forbidden fruit with the intent to do harm to herself. Knowing she was made in the image of God, she took and ate convinced it would make her enlightened and better off. Her intentions were not to doom all mankind, she simply judged what God said to be of less value than her current feelings on the subject. So she ate.
Being the sons and daughters of Eve, as well as heirs of Christ, we carry with us both curse and blessing: the ability to stand firm or to fall as we choose. Our obedience to God weakens the enemy while our disobedience emboldens him and enables his schemes.
Eve was convinced there was some justification to her sin. She thought somehow God couldn’t have meant exactly what He said, there had to be a better way.
Therein lies the hook. We convince ourselves our intentions are good and we make our sin into a noble act. We push God out, convinced we’ve got everything handled. With each selfish little choice, the soil of our heart hardens just a little more, and hard soil is only good for growing weeds.
In 1 Samuel 15 we see how Saul learned this lesson the hard way when he chose to keep some of the plunder from the Amalekites instead of destroying everything as God commanded. When Samuel confronted him about it, Saul swore that her really did obey and do what God commanded, that he was simply saving some of the animals to be a sacrifice for God (v15). However, that wasn’t what he was told to do. He was told to wipe everything out.
Knowing this, Samuel says to Saul, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears which I hear?”
Saul replies to him, still confident that he hasn’t done anything wrong, “the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord and the rest we have utterly destroyed (v 15).”
You can sense Samuel starting to lose it:
“Be quiet! Did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are utterly consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord? (v16-19)
And STILL Saul thinks all is well: “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people told of the plunder, the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God…” (v 20-21).
He’s justifying his actions, telling Samuel all the things he DID do, minimizing the command he chose to IGNORE completely. Which, by the way, ends up costing him his kingship, because REBELLION and STUBBORNNESS and REJECTING Gods edicts are things that are not going to work to anyone’s benefit. (Sorry for yelling…)
Samuel reminds Saul that “to obey is better than to sacrifice” (v 22-23).
This isn’t something new to us in our day, but we have excelled at taking it to another level it seems. This false gospel of self-importance and plaguing doubt about revealed truth (I used to say ‘nagging’ but I’m taking it up a notch) is growing like a giant weed in hard soil.
The past few weeks have seen not just a steady creep, but what feels like a full-on assault on specific areas of the church, namely women’s spheres. It’s not specific to certain leaders, but certain leaders have propelled it to the forefront and it deserves attention.
Jen Oshman, a missionary mom and writer addressed it perfectly earlier this week and I’d like to share some of what she said, the link to her entire piece, “A Trojan Horse in Women’s Ministry, Confronting a False Gospel Message” can be found here.
(This post specifically addresses the Belong Tour and the latest issues surrounding Jen Hatmaker, who along with her pastor husband, has given the thumbs up to same-sex unions, and Glennon Melton who is making guest appearances on the tour and recently came out as being in a same-sex relationship after the recent success of her Oprah-endorsed book Love Warrior.) She says:
“The message is one of SELF. It says we women are enough in and of ourselves, we define our purpose, we conjure up our own energy to realize our own goals. We don’t need anything or anyone – we command our destiny.
In stark contrast, the message of the Scripture is that, because of our sin we are desperately in need of God’s mercy, grace, and resurrection power. Apart from Jesus we are dead. (Ephesians 2:1)
The message of these women is a siren song. Who doesn’t want to believe that they are all they need? Who doesn’t want to live for and worship themselves? Their authentic, winsome style is leading women into idolatry and the women don’t even know that it’s a twisting of the truth.
And church, that is on us. These authors are merely exhaling the cultural air that we are breathing – the supremacy of self, the idol of autonomy. But the fact that women in churches are inhaling it deeply and without reservation is an indictment of the lack of discipleship within our very walls.”
In Greek mythology, the music of the beautiful Siren was so seductive, it lured many sailors off their charted course to their deaths. Deceptively alluring words full of good intentions are going to lead many to a rocky shipwreck because these waters are dangerously shallow. If you follow any of these women, you’ve seen the steady progression. It’s an incredibly dishonest way to sell your message. But Oshman is correct in saying that there is a bigger issue, these women are just two examples of what happens when we as a church become either ashamed of or confused about the true Gospel and desire to please ourselves more than God.
Friends, we are those sailors, navigating on a foggy sea, hearing the distant call of a beautiful voice. Listening to her means changing course.
We are Eve on the verge of that first bite, wondering “did God really mean what He said?” Listening to that serpent means eating deadly fruit.
We are Saul, returning from battle victorious deciding our way is more sacrificial, more intentional, more loving. Listening to the people who just want you to set some animals aside means losing your position.
We’ve lost our taste for boundaries and standards because they are hurting people who are comfortable in their sin, and we don’t want to hurt people. Surely there must be a less-offensive way.
We change the air by loving people Jesus’ way. If someone is hurting, love them enough to give them Jesus in His entirety. Don’t hold back the parts that may sting, let Him heal the wounds. He loves far better than we ever will.
Decide to follow Jesus even when it rubs up against those tender spots where sin is held close, that’s bravery. Following the tide of culture and feelings is not. Placing our beloved desires and selfish ways at the foot of the cross is hard, but it is freeing.
Don’t heed the siren songs, don’t embrace the serpent and don’t listen to the world Know the voice of the Shepherd and acquaint yourself with Him, His truth will always be able to stand on it’s own.
It’s been a week since the election, and we are still here! Praise indeed.
It’s been a draining week, an emotional week, and I for one have never felt such an acute ache for God’s presence to just come and soak through every fiber of my being as I did these past seven days.
We said we’d feel better once this was over, but I’d venture to say that most of us just felt a kind of ‘shift’ from one unknown to another. The anxiety of not knowing the outcome has simply been replaced with a new kind of restlessness now that we have our end result.
So what now? Half the country nervously awaits, biting their fingernails and hoping the guy they voted for doesn’t completely blow it and prove them to be incredibly foolish in their choice of candidate. The other half are shaking their heads, woefully disappointed at best, completely unhinged at worst, skipping work and demanding a re-do.
We are living in two Americas. Heels are dug in solidly on both sides and nobody is going to move. Politics have become our religion and religion has become our politics. Focus on it too much and too long and it will finish you. Anyone with a Facebook account will tell you this past week has been trying on the soul.
This election cycle boiled us all down to the sum of our labels. Republicans are (fill in the blank). Liberals are (fill in the blank). Feminist. Socialist. Libertarian. Can I be brutally honest? None of them mean anything unless and until we know ourselves through the One who created us. I can not sing “Hail To The Chief” until I first sing in my soul “Hail Jesus You’re My King” and mean it. We will support our leaders but also speak up for injustice as needed. We are not blindly following any party or person. We are first and foremost the Church of the resurrected Christ, both with a capital “C”.
Christ-follower. That’s the only label I remotely desire at this point.
We are more than a political party, we are a BODY. We are here to elevate truth, to speak it with conviction and love. I’m not afraid to dip my toe in the political waters, but I need to make sure I have first immersed myself in the fountain of LIVING WATER that only Jesus offers.
Church, we need the Truth now more than ever. Regardless of where it lands us on the map of political correctness, people are desperate for it. It may earn us the label of “ally” and it may get us branded as the “enemy”, but please don’t let it hinder your voice. At times it will be lonely, but we are never alone. Let’s not put all our hope into a party or platform or human being… let’s pray for our nation and put our hope in Jesus because the truth is, He has already overcome it all. Woefully lamenting our circumstances and shouting gloom and doom isn’t worthy of our position as believers. It’s never going to be perfect in this world, but we must remember to take heart, because we follow the One who has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
We are strangers in a strange land and it would serve us well to remember that fact. The world is going to ebb and flow as it always has. We serve a God who will never change, and that must be our firm foundation.
“A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous, they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck… Our heart longs for joy as we bow before One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose.” Charles Spurgeon
Friends, we are called as disciples to “preach the Word” and be “ready in season and out of season”, when the circumstances are for us and when they are against us. We are told to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Why? Because “the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Do you know how the church can “do better”? By adhering to God’s Word and loving our neighbor in truth.
How is it that we can “dig deep” and “do the hard work” that God really desires of us? By searching His word and hiding it in our hearts. It is the TRUTH that sets people free, not our well-meaning actions. The opinions of culture, authors, historians or professors don’t set people free, in fact they can do just the opposite.
Lets open our arms, but with the true gospel.
Our God is holy and righteous. He is also loving and full of mercy. These don’t cancel each other out, and we can’t adhere to one and not the other.
Sin has a diabolical agenda that will take us further down the road of good intentions than we ever imagined. Following Jesus requires hard things sometimes. It means we die to sin and self. We don’t rejoice in sin but flee from it. When others are stuck, we point them to a God who loves them and wants them free. The argument of “you’re too judgmental, God just wants us to love each other” is worn out with me. A true disciple does everything in love. Speaking the truth does not equate me with Westboro Baptist lunatics. If we ignore what He says in His Word, if we rearrange it to suit our feelings, no matter how noble they may be, we are not living as Jesus followers. We are nothing more than people-pleasers.
“In the end its like two locals telling a visitor how to get into a building. One tells the visitor he must go through the main gate, while the other says to go through an easier side door. The latter fears the main gate is too far away and too hard to enter. Initially, this local appears to make it easier for the visitor to get in, while the other seems to impose a harsher standard – until you find out there’s no side door.
While the easier instruction is well intended, it’s sadly just another way of keeping the visitor out.” Derek Rishmawy, The Gospel Coalition
It is precisely because we don’t want any to perish that we are speaking up. We don’t want anyone left out, Jesus didn’t come to be exclusive, He came for all of us. Ironically, those screaming to include what God has deemed not acceptable in His kingdom are shutting the door on the very people they hope to bring in.