We Gather Together for what?

How would you answer that question? We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing….so goes the old hymn. Was that your first response? If you know the hymn, it’s probably stuck in your head now, so perhaps that was your answer!

Many of us will gather with loved ones, friends, family, maybe even strangers, and celebrate Thanksgiving next week. But why do we gather? I’m not talking about historical or political underpinnings of the official “Thanksgiving” holiday. My hunch is that most of us have never thought much about why we gather. At the same time, most of us would not want to celebrate the holidays alone. There’s something about our need to celebrate that is most fully expressed as we gather.

I’ve written on Thanksgiving before, and this year, Laura is tasked with the official Thanksgiving Day blog post. So I was trying to come up with something unique and creative to commemorate the holiday. And for inspiration, I went to my trusty companion…google. Gatherings have been a frequent inspiration for many artists. In fact, I’ve already used one of the most famous works:

gather blog 1
Luncheon of the Boating Party, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Oil on canvas, 51 x 68, 1881. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

Living in Florida, I found it interesting that many of the famous paintings of various gatherings depicted people enjoying a meal together outside.

gather blog 2
HIp, Hip, Hurrah! by Peder Severin Kroyer, oil on canvas, 53 x 65 in, 1888. Gothenburg Museum of Art.

For most of my life, I have lived in climates where Thanksgiving weather necessitates eating indoors. What about you? Will you gather inside or enjoy the great outdoors while you dine?

I love this painting, which was new to me.

gather blog 3
Lunch on the field, Francisco Bayeu y Subias, oil on canvas, 37 x 56 cm, 1775, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

It is clearly a festive occasion – there are wine bottles nearby and a guitar off to the side. The participants are enjoying themselves, perhaps they sang prior to the meal, or maybe they will sing afterwards. It looks like the kind of gathering I would enjoy! Will you have music involved as you gather? Will you sing together?

I was entertained to see that two artists painted such similar paintings that they actually chose the same title.

gather blog 3
Luncheon on the Grass, Paul Cezanne. Oil on canvas, 81 x 60cm, 1869. Private Collection.
gather blog 4
Luncheon on the Grass, Claude Monet, oil on canvas, 248 x 217 cm, 1866. Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

In both of these works, the participants in the luncheon seem at ease with one another. Some of the gentlemen have removed their hats, the ladies are reclining on picnic blankets. There is a level of comfort and familiarity to the scene. I certainly hope you gather with folks whom you enjoy. And that you are comfortable with those gathered around your table (or picnic blanket).

It is possible though that this holiday season finds you alone, the stranger. Who might you ask to welcome you? And for those of us who may be the host of a holiday gathering, who is the stranger who needs a welcoming table?

In our home, we will indeed gather to ask the Lord’s blessing. He has been very gracious to us this year. Enjoy this little clip from A Prairie Home Companion – may you smile, wonder at God’s blessings, and perhaps extend a bit more grace as you extend your table and gather together.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Who is at your table?

boating party

It’s November, so I guess that officially puts us in the “holiday season.” Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, and there are only 43 shopping days left until Christmas!  Although this is supposed to be a time of celebration, it seems that what I hear more often is how busy everyone is – parties, shopping, school activities, recitals, dinners, decorating… The list goes on.  In my home, we have no shortage of those events, either.

But I want to challenge us all with something this holiday season: Are we focused on ourselves, or can we make room for others and invite them in? Into our homes, our celebrations, our lives.

This delightful painting by Pierre August Renoir is called Luncheon of the Boating Party. I have a rather large framed print hanging in my dining room. It was a housewarming gift to me many, many seasons ago from some dear friends when I graduated from seminary. Since that time, it has graced the wall in my dining room in seven different homes. It is one of the first pictures to be hung once we move into a new home. Why? Because it portrays the type of home I want to create. 

Look closely – all kinds of folks are gathered together enjoying what I imagine to be delicious food and drink. From those most lavishly dressed to those most humbly attired, all are together talking and enjoying one another. I just feel happy when I look at this painting. 

I want my table to be a place where folks of all types gather, where good food is savored, conversation enjoyed, and memories made. My home doesn’t need to be large; its walls need not be ornately decorated; the furniture does not need to pass a white-glove inspection. It just needs to be welcoming. My food doesn’t need to be fussed over for days. It just needs to be presented with affection.

As we enter into a time of celebrating all for which we are thankful and the birth of the One who gave us everything, who will be at your table? Look beyond those with whom you always gather; see those there that might be forgotten, for whom there is no boating party, no welcoming spread. Set a place for them at your table; invite them in; be the aroma of Christ to them. Then tell me about the joy that filled your home as a result.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

 

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