Every summer we celebrate Thanksgiving in July as an opportunity to look at what God has done in the past year. In our denomination we are supposed to have an annual meeting at this time of the year to give an update on the financial, physical, and spiritual health of the church. Our congregation has always done things a little bit differently so instead of having a boring meeting with facts and figures we celebrate Thanksgiving in July. Over the years this has become one of the most significant weeks of our church because we can see God’s hand at work in our people.
This year I am worried about one thing at TIJ……….food! You see over the past year we have lost many of our older saints who had the gift of hospitality. My mom was the latest loss in this category. Raymond and Donna Clemmons also passed away last year and these three losses have left a tremendous hole in our hearts and our tables. Over the past 15 years we have had hundreds of church fellowships, dinners, and celebrations. We have ALWAYS had more than enough food and people like myself have only donated a small dish that was purchased at Publix or Kroger on the way to the church. The over abundance of food was there because these people felt responsible for God’s reputation! They could not sleep at night with the thought that someone at church might go hungry at a meal. My mom and Donna spent hours on the phone talking about their greatest nightmares in life. What if a visitor came to our church and we ran out of banana pudding? What if a family at our church did not have enough money for food and could not bring anything? What if our people got skinny? Oh the humanity of it all!
Food is just a starting place for us to consider our next steps as a congregation. As we are losing our older saints the next generation has to step into the role of carrying and caring for God’s reputation in the world. The older saints are the ones who stopped by the church at night when the lights were not working because people could not see our sign. They worried that someone who was searching for Christ would miss us. They cleaned the bathrooms on Sunday mornings because they felt responsible for keeping God’s house in order. They came by and watered the new shrubs during our first summer in the new building because they felt that this was responsible stewardship.
The question we will ask this year is obvious. Who will carry God’s reputation when it comes to stewardship and hospitality? Who will step up and become the examples for this generation of young people? Who will drive by the church and feel a sense of responsibility? Who will take on the task of bending over and over providing so that the church is a place of abundance and not a charity?