On Monday night, friends and neighbors from around the Shawnee community gathered at St. Paul’s to share together in a Thanksgiving dinner. This is one of my favorite nights of the year.
As men, women, and children came through the doors they were greeted with warmth, smiles, and holiday greetings. We talked about the amazing smells coming from the kitchen where Gerald Bione poured his heart into every plate of food. We drooled over the large slices of donated delicious pie lined up across several tables. I heard multiple people say they had been waiting for this meal all year. One person shared with me that this was their Thanksgiving. For them there would be no table set with fancy decorations on Thanksgiving day. Their Thanksgiving was the one they shared with us.
I looked around the room and my soul burst with joy and gratitude. Gathered together for Thanksgiving dinner were 34 volunteers and 150 guests (last numbers I heard.) We weren’t divided by church members and non church members. In that room, for that meal, we were family. We shared a meal. We shared joy. We served one another and we handed out gloves, hats, and socks. In that room, for that night, heaven was on earth.
When we serve and love each other as God has asked us, we experience heaven. When we overcome all the things that divide us by giving more power to love than differences, we experience heaven. When we embrace our brothers and sisters, when we give hope to the hopeless, when we receive grace from those showering us with the blessing of it, when we celebrate another’s presence with us, when we forgive those who have wronged us, we experience heaven on earth.
“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
God is good and we have much to give God thanks for. Have you? Have you looked in your life, at your table, in your heart, and given thanks for all of the little blessings as well as the big? Do you realize how much your Lord loves you? Do you know you’ve been completely forgiven? When I think upon these things I feel called to dish up extra helpings of gratitude.
When I think about heaven, I think about you and our brothers and sisters from Monday night. I think about us sharing in meals together. I think about God at the door, welcoming us in. I think about God waiting inside for us, then celebrating that we arrived. I think about God in the kitchen preparing our meal. I think about God beside the table serving us pie. I think about God giving us items to keep us warm. I think about God offering to collect our trash and clean up after us. When I think about Thanksgiving, I give thanks for that loving God. When I think about heaven and about the community Thanksgiving dinner, I think about heroes. And as a song I recently heard states, “heroes don’t look like they used to. Heroes look like you do.”
Thank you for making a difference on Monday night and every time you serve your neighbor. You make the world a better place. Shawnee is better because you are in it. Our neighbors are loved because you decided they matter.
Happy Thanksgiving! God bless each of you and your families this holiday. You are loved.
Rev. Dr. Tiffany A. Nagel Monroe is the Lead Pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
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