February 17, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Sharon Jaynes, Vice President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author, speaker
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3:28
I recall as a young child, rocking on my grandma’s front porch and listening to the ladies from the missions’ 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. 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 infamous pot- luck supper (alias, covered-dish dinner)? As best I can tell, 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 twentieth-century church isn't being caught simply serving up fish and chips. We have taken the idea 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 McMillian. 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 otherwise. Because people tend to sit in the same seats each week, I never actually got a good look at about half of the class. The Christmas party was designed to remedy that problem. The McMillians' 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 delicious 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 up the stairs 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 from us, 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."
Quickly the three embarrassed Baptists reclaimed their food, once again followed the arrows to the coat room, and high-tailed it out of the McMillians' 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, 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.”
My prayer for today:
Dear Lord, thank you that there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, but that we are all one in Christ. I pray for the church at large, that we will live in unity and for my own church body, that we would be unified in purpose. When I look at another believer today, help me to only see You in them. Amen!
Take a look in the yellow pages of a phone book and glance at all the various denominations. Why do you think there are so many?
Jesus prayed that we would be as one, even as He and His father are one. Make a list of ways that Christians of various denominations can be united in spirit.
Consider having a church function that involves Christians from various denominations.
What was the only “religious” belief that was important to Paul? (I Corinthians 2:2)
Look back over Peter’s “review” of the gospel and list the major points. (Acts 2:14-41)
At one point, Peter didn’t want to eat food that was against Jewish laws. What did God do to teach Peter that certain “rules” were not what was important? (Acts 10:9-23)
What is the only requirement for receiving eternal life? (Romans 10:9-13)
Mark 7: 7-8 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.
I Corinthians 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. .
Ephesians 4:3-6 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Romans 15:5, 6 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
*All Scripture references are from the NIV Bible
This devotion is an excerpt from At Home with God, a book by Sharon Jaynes