Sides and Strays for Thanksgiving

Every week I write a reflection for our congregation’s weblog. The national setting of the United Church of Christ offers a Stillspeaking Daily Devotional. And sometimes those are just too good to resist. I wanted to write something spiritually challenging on Thanksgiving this week. But sometimes all it takes is a look into the rounds of our extended church family. Here is the gem I found that was written for today by Donna Schaper:

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25

Thanksgiving Day is approaching and everyone’s mind has turned to sides and strays. There is little to be done about the turkey, except for the slight possibility that we could talk less about whether it is too dry. There is not much to be done either about the people who are always invited to the table. The regulars will be there, like it—or them—or not.

The experimentation is all in the sides and strays. We can invite someone new. We can notice an exchange student or someone recently widowed or divorced. We can remember that family whose father was deported. We can add a leaf to just about any table.

When it comes to the sides, the fun really starts. This year my husband made sauerkraut again. We spent way too many Saturdays at yard sales trying to figure out the exact right kind of jar to brine the cabbage in. Sure enough, our search found its match at a yard sale dedicated to funding a neighbor’s medical bills. We were so encouraged by the jar and its proffer that we gave a lot more than the quarter they wanted. Isn’t that encouragement? When we want to pay more than a thing is worth? When we want to add a leaf to the table? When we want to do more than talk turkey with each other?

Some have said that the virtue of what we used to call “congregationalism” was in its encounters. Its meetings. Its comings together. Its covenants to walk the way, one with another. I don’t know much about congregationalism anymore. That word feels so dated. But maybe this scripture has it right. Maybe we are the people who will not neglect to meet with each other.

Let us not neglect to have great encounters, superb meetings, good sides and strays at our table. Amen.

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