The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The cranberry stain

A parable of Thanksgiving grace

Thanksgiving dinner always reminds me of grace and forgiveness — and the fact that they don't come without sacrifice.

When I was a seminary student, I was invited to the home of a professor for Thanksgiving dinner. I lived too far away to go home for the short holiday break, and I was always grateful for a home-cooked meal. So I put on my best suit and joined a few other guests for turkey and all the fixings.

It was the fixings that did me in. The hostess had realized that quite a few people would be around the table, so she had prepared extra quantities of food. The cranberry jelly, for example, was served in two rings, one on top of the other, held together by discreetly placed toothpicks. By the time the cranberries were passed to me, the top ring had been broken at a couple of places. In my eagerness I grabbed the platter and swung it too quickly over my plate. The top ring of cranberries couldn't quite keep up. Part of it broke loose from the toothpicks and flopped onto the white tablecloth.

All table conversation stopped. Everyone looked at the cranberries and the stain. My instinctive reaction was to take my knife and slip it under the jelly to flip it up on my plate. The knife lifted it for a short distance and then cut right through. Now there were two stains. I think I was redder than the berry ring.

The evidence of my clumsiness was spreading. I didn't dare look up because I was sure glances were being exchanged around the table. At that point my hostess said, "Just leave it there. I'll get a spatula. The stains will come right out. It's an old tablecloth anyway." Dinner-table conversation resumed. The pumpkin pie was great.

After dinner, while the guests were digesting their meal, I went into the kitchen for a drink of water. There was my hostess, bent over the sink, scrubbing as hard as she could to get those stubborn stains out of her best tablecloth. A gracious hostess reminded me of what a gracious God has done for us all.

"Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus ..." (Romans 3:23-24).




Posted at 3:00 am (U.S. Eastern) 12/25/2007

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Posted at 9:08 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/30/2008

lovely :)

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