A big crew of us gathered at church on Thanksgiving Day for dinner. Thanksgiving dinner at church is a little slice of heaven. It is paradise not only because I get to eat all the gizzards and hearts without sharing (I like to think of it as redneck chewing gum), but there is something about this gathering of folks that is especially lovely. This year we had quite a crew at dinner, close to forty. I tell folks it’s not a charity dinner; everyone is expected to bring something. I truly believe everyone has something to offer and denying folks a chance to give undermines humanity. I made a couple of turkeys and a couple of beef roasts. My favorite turkey recipe is one of those nerdy science recipes that talks about chemistry stuff and it turned out super yummy. The other turkey was boring and the beef roasts didn’t quite cook like I wanted them to, but that’s life.
I do the best I can and depend on everyone else to bring the rest. No one is in charge; we all chip in, offer our gifts, and God blesses them. We ate well, little kids were running around, folks played cards, and there was a general sense of joy and peace. We hung out for five hours eating and playing games. I won’t mention who won the cribbage and ping pong games (it was me). Don’t imagine we’re one of those places where kids are allowed to win. We want everyone to offer their best and allow it to be a safe place to fail and learn. But we try not to make them cry.
I’m never sure how to imagine heaven, but a feast for which everyone brings what they have and God blesses it with peace and joy seems pretty close.
• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a regular column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.