by Richard Haney, Executive Director
I like Thanksgiving because it’s a uniquely American holiday that bids us to stop and count our blessings. Even if it’s not strictly a Christian holiday, the sensibility to be thankful certainly is a prominent biblical theme.
For me, gratitude in scripture is directly tied to mission and how Jesus calls us to engage in mission. In Luke’s version of the Great Commission, found in Acts 1:6-8, the disciples ask a question and Jesus answers with a promise.
“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” —Acts 1:6-8 NRSV
Jesus’ words are a promise—the Holy Spirit will come and you will be my witnesses. They are the promise of a gift, an action of pure grace. It’s not a new law to follow. Rather it’s the promise of divine resources that enable us to show and share the grace of Christ to others. The gift of the Spirit is a foretaste of God’s Kingdom. Like a deposit or an appetizer or the first-fruits, Jesus assures us that the Kingdom is a reality and that there is going to be a harvest—an even greater reality of God’s love, peace and joy. And we get to be a part of it!
In the Old Testament picture of evangelism, salvation is a journey that God’s people make toward the center, to the holy place where God dwells. In the New Testament, those who have been gathered to Christ are now sent out as ambassadors to plant churches, love neighbors and translate the Good News wherever they go.
There is good work for us to do in places around the world where people do not yet confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord. Our spiritual hunger points others who are hungry to the source of our sustenance—Jesus, the Bread of Heaven. When you envision heaven, the ingathering picture returns. We are gathered with all the saints around the throne—people from every nation, tribe, people and language joined together at the God’s banqueting table. These missional images call to mind our Thanksgiving celebrations around the dinner table.
Thanksgiving…a feast following a harvest…the fruits of mission.
“Come, ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home.” —Hymn by Henry Alford