December 1, 2008
December 1, 2008
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world now that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23 NIV)
Friend to Friend
I recall as a young child, rocking on my grandma’s front porch and listening to the ladies from the mission society gossip about the “heathens” whose church was across the street from theirs. It always puzzled me because the “heathens” were such nice people and their church looked just like grandma’s church. As far as I could tell, there was no difference. Both believed in Jesus, wore funny hats on Sundays, and sang the same hymns. And both had great pot-luck dinners.
How did the church come up with the notion of the famous pot-luck supper (alias, covered-dish dinner)? I personally think it all began in Matthew chapter 15. The first covered-dish gathering was a great success as Jesus served more than 4,000 men (not to mention a few thousand women and children) and had leftovers to boot. All this came from one little covered dish. Actually, it was a covered basket. This was, after all, before the advent of Corning Ware.
Later the Baptists followed His lead and the next thing you know, all denominations are celebrating a multiplicity of occasions with every variety of casserole known to man, but the twenty first-century church isn't being caught simply serving up fish and chips. We have taken the notion of "breaking bread" and run with it. Not only do we break bread, but we crunch fried chicken, munch fresh veggies, scoop casseroles, slice pies, cut cakes, and sip coffees. We chew the fat while chewing our food and extend the right hand of fellowship while our left hand extends the serving spoon. No matter how much food walks through the doors, none ever goes to waste, but much goes to the waist. I'd say that covered-dish dinners are one of the most cherished rituals in the church today!
Our Sunday school class's annual Christmas party entailed such an event. It was at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Marshall McMillan. The class consisted of 150 people in a church of 1,600. It's a little difficult to be intimate with 150 congregates on Sunday morning, so the Christmas party was a great time to chat with people you didn't normally have a chance to visit otherwise. Because people tend to sit in the same seats each week, I had never really seen about half of the class.
The Christmas party was designed to remedy that problem. The McMillan’s home was beautifully decorated with holly, spruce and magnolia clippings. It was filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of the season as well as the incoming aroma of the many deliciously prepared meals. In an effort to provide crowd control and proper traffic flow, our host, Marshall had posted directional signs around the house. One sign read "COATS," with an arrow pointing up the stairs to their daughter's room. Another read "HOT FOOD," with an arrow pointing toward the kitchen.
Marshall was doing a great job at his post as official greeter and traffic police.
"Hello, how are you?" He greeted two ladies and one man as they made their way up the front steps with dishes in hand. "You can take your food into the kitchen and then follow the arrows to the coat room.”
The obedient threesome followed directions well and then headed to the name tag table, but a warning light was flashing in my mind.
"Marshall," I said, "Who are those people? I don't recognize them."
"I don't recognize them, either," he answered. "But you know our class is so big. Maybe they sit on the opposite side of the room and we just haven't noticed them before."
They looked like they could have been one of us. They seemed to know the drill, but something was wrong with this picture.
"Marshall, go find out who they are," I urged.
He approached the trio, who were now looking a little bewildered themselves. "Excuse me. You are here for the Sunday school Christmas party, aren't you?"
"Yes," they answered. However, their "yes" sounded more like a question than an answer. Then they asked, "This is the Sunday school class for First Baptist Church isn't it?"
"No, ma'am," Marshall answered. "This is the party for Forest Hill Presbyterian. You folks are at the wrong party."
The three embarrassed Baptists quickly reclaimed their food, once again followed the arrows to the coat room, and high-tailed it out of the McMillan’s house to another Sunday school covered-dish gathering a few doors down.
Won’t heaven be an interesting place? One big perpetual brightly lit Christmas party: a celebration of new birth. No covered dish required because He will sit us down at His banqueting table which He has prepared for us. One great thing about this party will be that when the Baptists stumble into a room full of Presbyterians or when the Episcopalians walk in on a bunch of Assemblies of God folks, no one will feel out of place. We will all say, "Welcome! And come on in. Take your coat off and stay a while - an eternity, for that matter. You’re definitely in the right place.”
Dear Lord, I’m not even sure how all this business of denominations started in the first place, but I do know that You specifically prayed that we would have unity among the Body of Christ. Help us to put away our differences and focus on what is truly important – Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Are you prejudiced against certain denominations?
If you do, how do you think Jesus feels about that?
What do you think Paul meant by this statement? “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NIV)
More from the Girlfriends
Don’t you just love watching God speak through the ordinary moments of life? He is speaking. Will we listen? Sharon’s beautiful new devotion book, Extraordinary Moments with God is filled with stories of God’s presence that turn ordinary days into extraordinary treasures. It is a perfect Christmas gift! To learn more, see http://www.sharonjaynes.com/
Click here to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Click here to learn more about hosting a Girlfriends in God conference in your area or having one of the GiGs speak at your next women's event.
Originally published Monday, 01 December 2008.