We have come to expect “Thanksgiving in Big Spring, TX” to be a big event and this year was no exception. It seems each year, as family gathers, the food tastes better and the fellowship is sweeter. During the trip home I began thinking about why our time together is so wonderful. Individually, we all live very busy and productive lives, and meeting together takes us away from our normal routines, and gives us time to unwind and share the happenings in everyone’s life. The very center of our shared holiday is the Lord Jesus Christ to whom we give all the honor and glory.
Clint and Kami pastor Life Church in Big Spring. As I looked at the tremendous table of food spread before us, I saw the days of effort that it took to put it all together. Clint and Kami and my pastor, Rick Flowers, and his family have invested their lives pouring God’s Word (the bread of Life) into people. I asked Kami, who has been a pastor’s daughter all her life and now a pastor’s wife, how she was able to keep loving people with all the ups and downs life brings. She said her parents taught her as a child that people were “the spice of life”. The table spread before us last Thursday was a sight to behold, but the individual spices in each dish was what made the food more delicious and flavorful.
The Lord has spread a table before us in His Kingdom. When He reappeared to His disciples after His resurrection He simply said “Come and dine.” (John 21:12) He had just prepared some fish on an open fire but the implication here is far greater than natural food.
In the spiritual realm, I believe we could say that the Word of God is a banquet of the richest sort. King David once said in Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” As the Lord’s journey on earth progressed, His teachings became harder to understand and many disciples followed Him no further. There was one particular statement Jesus made that brought offense to some. He said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eateth of this bread he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
Many different traditions, in religious circles, have developed over the meaning of His words and offense is still here today. Some believe Jesus was referring to the bread and wine that was offered at the Last Passover Supper and there is some truth to these traditions; however, ultimately one must agree that the words of the Lord were before His crucifixion when He offered His flesh on the cross. Not only should we observe the ordinance of communion but also daily eat His Word for it is in His Words that we have life and that everlasting.
Everyone knows that in the United States fast food restaurants and all you can eat buffets are on every street. Most people don’t take the time anymore for a sit down meal with the family, and yet in days of old the “table” represented the place of feasting and fellowship or communion. This is where families would gather on a daily basis and discuss not only the days events but attempt to filter the news of the day through the lens of scripture.
When we go to an “eat all you can eat” buffet there is always a temptation to eat far more than is necessary or needed. There is usually a smorgasborg of different foods. Few people can resist the temptation to try as much as will fit on the plate. This tendency to consume more than we could possibly need to sustain and nourish healthy bodies, is perhaps one of the reasons this country has the greatest weight problems of any nation in the world. Many countries do not have the option of abundance of food before them. With abundance comes greater temptations to self indulgence instead of self discipline.
The Lord’s table is carefully selected. Our Thanksgiving spread in Big Spring is different than an “all you can eat” buffet. Every single dish prepared has a unique history behind it. Some of the recipes have been handed down for generations, and each year the same foods are prepared. “Doma” is a family tradition that we all participate in. The night before Thanksgiving the family sits around the table to prepare the stuffing of the grape leaves with the special beef mixture. Learning to wrap the leaves and stuff the peppers is as much fun as the actual eating of the dish. I was thinking that perhaps all the preparation just adds to the time when it is finally time to sit down and gives thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
We can’t just enter into the Lord’s presence any old way. I find that the time when I am able to go to the prayer room before our church service makes a big difference in how satisfying that meal at the Lord’s table will be that day.
One can readily see from this post that our family really enjoys tradition. It is these traditions that add richness to our Thanksgiving experience, as memories are built year after year, just as a house is built brick upon brick. This past year we have lost many beloved elders in our church and the feeling of losing something irreplaceable tugs on each of us. I have heard two messages in the past few weeks with an urgency from the elder generation that is passing away to impart something to the younger generation before some of our Pentecostal traditions are lost completely.
I also recently heard a message posted on Facebook that showed a prophetic video saying that we should do away with tradition. There are traditions of men that have made the Word of God of none effect, but there are also valuable family and communal traditions. If any of those traditions became more important than the Word of God we would have to choose obedience to God above even the love for our family. Thank God stuffed turkey and pumpkin pie are not a stumbling block.
For a brief synopsis of the rise of oral tradition we can study the history of the church. The early church went from great ascendency after the Day of Pentecost to persecution, declension, compromise, reformation, restoration, and then 20th century revival with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at the Welsh revival and Azusa street. It was devotion to tradition that caused the church to backslide, as a whole, during the Dark Ages. Ritual observances replaced fresh revelation. Form and legalism replaced liberty in Christ and the necessity of receiving the Holy Ghost and baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus. “Having a form of godliness but denying the power (the Holy Ghost).” The traditions of the fathers took dominance over the Word of God.
It seems as we observe historical trends that the pendulum keeps swinging from left to right and back again. Only two years ago we saw a huge pendulum swing towards the political left’s message of change, and now we are witnessing a counter-surge of American grass-roots resistance with the “Tea Party” movements. Too much change threatens people security and this movement knows this quite well. So the pendulum is swinging towards more traditional family core values and belief systems.
Rather than casting aside all tradition we should be very careful to take heed to some of the traditions our predecessors put in place to help them stay close to the Lord and to be pleasing to Him. Because of technology and a multitude of foods placed on everyone’s table, this rising generation is sorely tempted to ignore the traditions of the elders as being “old fashioned” or not “relevant” for today. Our predecessors fought many spiritual battles, and put some landmarks in place to serve as a protective boundary to keep themselves and their children in the path of holiness. Knowing that the “righteous are scarcely saved” and that the way was “straight and narrow” their admonishments for holy living and separation from the world were based on their understanding of scripture. It is one thing to know His will but yet another to learn of His ways through experience.
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions, which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)