Jesus said, "Bring extra chairs!"
“Bring extra chairs.” That was the message after my wife, Linda, got off the phone. She had been going over some of the details for the Thanksgiving meal that we will be attending at her sister’s home not far from ours.
I remember my first Thanksgiving meal with Linda. We were just dating. There were six of us that sat around her family’s dining room table. Later that day two other family members arrived. That meant eight for dessert. If we all were able to be present this year it would mean spaces for 33 persons.
But we won’t all be in one place at the same time for a variety of reasons. We are all still family. We will just be having a “multi-site” Thanksgiving dinner.
My grandfather always sat at the head of the table (west end). Bless his heart. His chair was dangerously close to the front of the pot belly coal furnace that heated the place well to bake the pies as they sat on the sewing machine top next to it. My grandmother and Aunt Anna managed to make space for the two of them, where there was barely room for one, at the table corner that overlapped the kitchen door. That seemed to work out well as one or the other was up and down taking turns bringing in dish after dish of food piled high.
The black and white rabbit ear TV rarely had a show you could get in focus, so no Lions game. But who cared. There was carom to play and colorful marbles for games of Chinese Checkers; a ball rolling game that let you score points if it landed out in the cupped holes, a peg board with hand whittled sticks; and then there was all the time just sitting around eating pie and listening to the stories being told and poems recited from memory. Even though all this is a memory now, and the games get less use, it was still good we needed more chairs. It meant there were extra people at the table.
The other night Linda and I gathered with about 600 others to hear a young adult in a Christian music concert. The young adult doctor who treats me was there with some of the friends he had brought along. We sat with members of our small group, watching with joy the excitement and engagement in this worship experience by their children and their friends. This congregation is already thinking creatively about how to address the need for more chairs.
Of the eleven persons that sat in that Indiana farm house around the coal furnace swapping stories and eating pie, only three remain, my mom, age 92, and my sister and me. I still tease her! But the rest of that extended family numbers over 50 now and will be in eight or more states. “Go into all the world and make disciples…” Jesus said to us. Go across the street and mention to the new neighbors, the clerk at the store, the parents and children you encounter along the way, that “You are loved by God, and we have plenty of chairs to share. Let me tell you how we can serve and love and pray and worship together for the purpose of transforming the world.”
Director of Connectional Ministries