Celebrate 5

Luke 12:35-36

The preparation for Thanksgiving was always a very busy time for me and my family. But, in spite of how hard some of the work may have been it was done with a joyful and glad heart.

Some of my chores were to sweep and mop the family room area, and to light the fire in the fireplace so that the room was welcoming and warm for all who came. Getting ready was a fun time of anticipation because I knew that our guests – friends and family I was anxious to see again – would be arriving throughout the day. Some would enjoy the comforts of our home for many hours and others would be arriving after dark, coming in from the cold to find a bright, warm welcome.

In Luke 12 Jesus has some words of instruction for those who would do the work of God. What are we to do? To what does he compare the work of the kingdom?

As we gather this holiday and enjoy the companionship of others let us remember those who still know loneliness and sorrows. As we celebrate the comforts and goodness we have in our lives let us remember those who have not yet found the love and grace that God can give. As we reflect on the abundance of spiritual blessings we know let us think of how we might be able to share this goodness with others.

The celebration we take part in should not be a celebration that we keep to ourselves. It should be a feast we are willing to share with others. We need to be ready and willing to open the doors to invite others in so they also might experience the love and mercy of God.

We must be ready in our celebrations to welcome the stranger, the person who is a stranger to the ways of the Lord. We must be prepared to help them find their way through the darkness of a life without hope, to find their way into the light and warmth of God’s grace.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you open the door for someone’s faith?

Celebrate 4

John 21:4-6

One time when fishing with my dad and a cousin on the banks of the Ohio River a small, commercial fishing boat pulled up to unload their catch. The first was so big one of the men needed both hands and all of his strength to heft it out of the holding tank. Others followed, huge fish, scooped out with a big net that was full to almost bursting with the weight of them. When they were done they came over with half a dozen big fish and tossed them to us. They said they wanted us to have them because our reaction to what they were doing had entertained them.

In John 21 we are given an account of Jesus with his disciples. What are the disciples doing? What does Jesus suggest? What is the result?

Jesus gathered his first disciples by telling them he would make them fishers of men. He meant that they would be going out into the world and “catching” people who needed to have a connection to God, who needed to have hope and joy brought into their lives through the presence of God.

This encounter in Luke 21 is a reminder that with the direction from Jesus his followers could find a large number of people who could be brought in to the kingdom of God. And when those who are lost are brought in they can become part of the wonderful banquet of God’s goodness.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, as we gather to celebrate, we should remember not only to celebrate the abundance of blessings we have, but also that we should be willing to share our abundance. And that abundance that we share is more than just material possessions. We are blessed with an abundance of love, mercy and peace from God. This is also what we should share with others.

And not only should we see that we need to share our abundance with others, we should see that there is an abundance of needy souls out in the world that should be brought in to the feast that God offers. As we recognize the feast of love and grace God gives us, let us also recognize that there are so many others who deserve to have that same fulfilling relationship with Jesus. We can be the people who make the banquet full and complete when we invite the stranger to be part of our worship and part of our own faith journey.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there someone who needs you to invite them to God’s feast?

Celebrate 3

Exodus 18:10-12

Thanksgiving has always been one of those wonderful holiday memories I carry with me. The day is very special because it is such a celebration of the goodness of life. I remember all the years as a child and a teen-ager and now, even as an adult, the times we have gathered as family. On those holidays so many come together to fill the house and share in abundance.

It is more than just an opportunity to eat too much food. It is a time to re-connect with loved ones we haven’t seen in months and months. It is a time to meet new people who are now part of the lives of those we know.

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt they began their long journey through the wilderness. As they traveled Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, heard of what the Israelites had gone through and so came to Moses bringing with him Moses’ wife.

What words of celebration does Jethro offer? What is his realization? What do Jethro, Moses and Aaron and all the others do together?

Although our holiday of Thanksgiving is meant to commemorate the pilgrims and their survival in the new world, this instance in Exodus reminds me very much of the holiday. Relatives on both sides of the family along with other important people in Moses’ life gather together for a celebration.

Praise is offered to God for all the goodness God has shown. Honor is given to God for His provision. Then God is celebrated with a special meal, and that gathering involves friends and family, and those related by marriage.

As we celebrate our holiday this year we must follow the pattern set by Moses. We should give our thanks to God for what He has done for us. We should celebrate the goodness we have in our lives. And that celebration should not be complete unless we have included not only those who are “insiders” in our life, but the outsider as well.

The gladness and joy we feel for how God has blessed us should overflow in abundance, not just for us, but in an abundance we can share with others.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you share your celebration of God’s goodness?

Celebrate 2

Matthew 9:35-38

Many people try very hard to be certain everything is ready for any event where guests are expected. If someone is coming to dinner you may want to be certain all the food is ready, the table is set, and the glasses for drinks are out. If planning an event at your church you want all the tables and chairs set out ahead of time, the coffee pot going, and everything tidy.

There is nothing wrong with that attitude, but we must also see that there is nothing wrong in asking guests to take part in the preparation either. There are many times when the guest actually feels better about helping out than being catered to completely. They feel part of the event because they were part of the work.

In Matthew we have a general summing up of Jesus’ ministry. What were all the things Jesus did? How did Jesus feel toward the people? What should we ask for?

The ministry of Jesus, in fact his entire purpose for becoming human and coming to earth, was all about compassion. He came because he loves us and because God wanted good things to come to us.

With that compassion Jesus taught about living in the kingdom of God. He preached. He healed people. And then at one point he invited his disciples to be part of this wonderful ministry.

The harvest Jesus is talking about is the gathering in of souls. He was talking about bringing the hopeless and sorrowful, sin-sick souls in the world to the wonderful comfort and joy of being in relationship with God. The disciples were then told to ask God to send others out in the world to do the same ministry.

And we as followers of Christ should ask God for the same thing. We should ask God to send us out into the world, to be the workers for God. We should be part of this ministry of inviting others in to experience a new life of love and grace in the presence of God.

We should be part of the preparation of the great celebration of salvation and mercy.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you help with the harvest?

Celebrate 1

Luke 15:25-27

Last week we attended the final concert of the school’s brass band. Our middle child is the junior student conductor and had the honor of conducting the band in a song. Like both of his parents he was quite a showman, not only directing, but dancing and joking as he did so. As parents we were quite proud of what he has accomplished and we were glad to be there and be part of the celebration.

Our daughter was also part of the presentation, performing with the flag group that works with the band. We were proud of what she had accomplished also.

Our celebration of what our son had done should not have in any way diminished what we felt for our daughter. It should not in any way diminish what we feel for our oldest son who has had his own set of successes in life. The celebration of one good thing does not take away from the joys that other situations and accomplishments bring.

Today’s passage is just a small piece of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Most people are familiar with the story. The younger son of a rich man takes his share of the inheritance and squanders it in frivolous living. Poor and struggling, he decides to return to his father and hope for a kind welcome.

What type of response does the older son hear? Why is there a celebration?

The younger son wanted and expected little more than fairness and mercy when he came back, but instead he got more than the kindness he hoped for. He is celebrated. His return is cause for a feast. But this response angers the older brother who stayed with the father.

The parable is a message to all of us. God delights in our return to His good graces and to His kingdom. God does not want any of us to be wandering hopelessly in the world. He welcomes all who will return from a life of sin to a life of goodness.

But those who consider themselves righteous and devout believers can often feel that they are being neglected because God has set His eyes on the lost. As believers we need to join in the celebration. God does not love the wayward soul more than the obedient believer, and celebrating the return of a sinner does not diminish the good we have done.

As we celebrate the goodness God has given us in our lives, let us be willing to celebrate also the goodness that is given to others as well. Let us invite all to be part of the gladness God gives.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you share your celebration of God’s goodness?