Dear South Georgia Conference family,
Each year, the approach of Thanksgiving renews my sense of gratitude that one of my three sisters married a farmer. The rest of us, along with our extended families, gather at the farm on Thanksgiving Day. It’s quite a scene as we are surrounded by fields, farm equipment, horses, cattle, chickens, and several pet dogs. There are sounds of all kinds. And inside the farmhouse there are the aromas of turkey, dressing, gravy, vegetables, casseroles, and various desserts.
But there is one other ingredient in this cornucopia of thanksgiving. In addition to inviting all the family to the farm, my sister and brother-in-law (Sherrie and Sam) also invite people whom the rest of us have never met. These added guests range from farmhands to grieving persons to those who have no immediate family and so on. We never know who will be there, but there is always a story to be told about how Sherrie and Sam have come to know them. And it usually has to do with sensing that this year these particular persons might be blessed by being together with the rest of us on Thanksgiving. I can tell you that I certainly have been blessed by the diverse array of people with whom we share a bountiful meal and a deep appreciation for the wide embrace of my sister and brother-in-law.
What I have described above always reminds me of the special thanksgiving observance outlined in Deuteronomy 26:1-11. Once the Israelites have come into the land, they are to take some of the first fruits of the harvest and take it to the priest.
“You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I
declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore
to our ancestors to give us.” 4 When the priest takes the basket from your hand
and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, 5 you shall make this
response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…”
The response referred to here is the actual telling of their own story: wandering in the wilderness, oppression in Egypt, deliverance from slavery, and entrance into the promised land. Even today, Thanksgiving is a time to remember our own story - and be thankful that God’s grace has brought us “through many dangers, toils, and snares.”
Notice that these instructions conclude with an important addition: an expanding array of people. “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.” The God of Israel wants the Levites and the foreigners to be invited to the table. That’s what Sherrie and Sam model for our family on Thanksgiving. It makes my day.
I am thankful that I get to be with you in South Georgia. You make my day with your faithfulness, your sense of joy in the Lord, and your desire to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world.
Alive Together in Christ,
R. Lawson Bryan