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Hey, me too!

By Charles Qualls

We have a new favorite at our house. There is a person on social media who can stop us in our tracks every time he posts a new video. At 85 years young, the world-acclaimed chef Jacques Pepin still has it.

During the pandemic, his children began to film and produce five-minute segments done in his home kitchen. They’re called, “Jacques Pepin Cooking At Home.” He demonstrates how to make quality entrees or sides that we can actually do. So, when he adds another video in that series, we often sit down together to watch.

Thanksgiving is a day we look forward to each year. We have a few rituals that have traveled with us over time. Most years, we have put up the Christmas tree and watched a lot of football. It’s also a day when we normally eschew traditions, instead using that as a grand time of culinary experiment with whatever recipe has caught our fancy.

We weren’t always as relatively skilled in cooking at our house as we are these days. We’ve come a long way. I am thinking of some of the more memorable Thanksgiving feasts that Elizabeth and I have shared over the years.

We still laugh about our very first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We made a full turkey, and attempted all the trimmings. But we didn’t really know what we were doing. The turkey itself was not memorable. The potatoes and green beans were good. The dressing was okay, but probably not what either of our mothers made. We tried.

The giblet gravy is where things really fell off by the wayside. We didn’t have half of what we needed to try to make it. And we didn’t follow the recipe as precisely as we could have with what we did have. “Inedible” is a word that comes to mind.

Thanksgiving can be a grand feast some years, if we’re in the mood. We love to host. We love to have company, especially old friends with whom we have shared some life.

Someone has said, “Friendships begin when one person says to the other, ‘Hey…me too!’” I think that explains a lot about life. Many churches gather each year on All Saints Sunday to put our arms around each other and say a collective, “Hey…me, too.” Yesterday, we considered Isaiah 25:6-9 as we held that service. Isaiah serves up a pretty grand feast for us here.

While we are longing for a day when death is no more, what God offers here is the end of mourning. Isn’t that the lingering issue when we lose loved ones? In this realm, now is not the time when death will be no more. But God will at least visit our times of grief. God is present in our times when we mourn as we should.

In fact, one writer notices that Isaiah here speaks to what has been, what is, and what is yet to be. In any given year, you may sit down at the Thanksgiving table and say, “Boy, we’ve been fortunate this year. We’re all here and everyone’s healthy.” If that is your family this year, you have a lot to give thanks for.

In any given year, we could come to Thanksgiving Day, or even this past All Saints Sunday, and be reflecting on the fresh grief of having lost one or more loved ones. If that is you, the church is at her best when we gather with you to say “We noticed. Hey, me too.”

All have lost. Some have lost loved ones recently. Others will someday lose their beloved, and will seek comfort in the care and presence of others who have known that same loss. That’s church. That’s us. Isaiah calls us to find the presence of God in what we know.

Just as God defeated Pharaoh and the people feasted, God gathers us now to acknowledge that one day, God will defeat the ultimate foe. But what about right now? What about your grief or mine?

We get through it together, in the presence of One who can also defeat another pretty stout foe now: our mourning. God can help us to mitigate our grief. For now, God will serve up for us a feast of hope in Isaiah 25. I pray you’ll come to the table.