What are two basketball hoops for? To basketball fans, they are a pleasant sight of a game they love. To other people, they are just space fillers. To my engineering husband, well, they became two cranes lifting up the ropes of flags displaying the beauty of the nations around the world.
Our church has a gym with two big electrical hoops that can be lowered or raised as games are scheduled to play, or as people get ready to use the gym for dinners and reunions. With the lights dimmed just perfectly, the raised hoops hide in the vaulted ceiling of our gym. For our recent international Thanksgiving dinner, my husband concocted an engineering plan of tying ropes on these hoops in such a way that when they are raised, the ropes will be hanging perfectly high across the immense gym, decorating the room with flags.
You see, these are not just a creative idea of decorating empty gym spaces. That’s HGTV’s job. These flags are personal treasures of gospel landmarks. With each flag raised up in our gym, there is a name, a face, and a story. As we celebrate each international guest, we lift up banners of flags to remind us of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to pray, intercede and give thanks for all nations (1 Tim. 2:1). We remember them and pray for them. The sights of flags are but gospel reminders of heaven’s décor, where redeemed nations and tribes, skin colors and language sounds unite harmoniously at the table of the Lamb’s perfect feast. Romanians and Nigerians, Pakistani and Canadians, Mexicans and Saudi Arabians, Colombians and Lithuanians, Chinese and Koreans. 34 nations and more attend our recent dinner at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church.
I was elated to be a part of my church’s International Thanksgiving Dinner. Elated to see old friends and meet new ones. A casual dinner with heavenly sounds. The evening was crowded, noisy, and extremely diverse. From Hijabs, Saris, and Qipaos, to suits, dresses, jeans and T-shirts, the evening displayed some cultural home fashions. Languages I do not understand and yet sounds of laughter and joy to which I can relate. Men, women and children. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends and acquaintances. Black and white and every shade in between. Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, spiritual and religious alike. We brought our diversity with us to the 5 foot round tables and shared some turkey, mashed potatoes & green beans, and our humanity and the church’s gym. We ate, laughed, talked, missed our homes, and shared the greatest news of Christ. We learned about home countries and family traditions and ate some more.
We do not do these dinners to fit in or stand out in our culture. We love these diverse peoples simply because they are made in God’s image and because, as Christians, we pray for them and are thankful for them. We honor them because we honor our Lord Jesus. We treasure them because Christ treasures us. We share with them a meal, a hug, and the good news of Christ because Jesus shared his body & life for us on the cross even when we were sinners. This dinner is purely personal with heavenly echoes.
But this dinner is also one of our most precious family traditions, an heirloom of teachings to our kids. Our children will understand better what heaven will look like as they feast their eyes on the diverse sight of nations in a basketball gym. The sounds of different languages, is the music of heaven, even as they share a bread roll and a giggle with a child with a different language. We teach them that often the most impactful and eternally glamorous events happen in daily sharing of meals and dull locations. Our homes, our churches, gyms and locations are but tools of brick and cement that facilitate life changing messages of Christ love and service to all peoples.
As we soak in the sight of nations and enjoy the sounds of languages and laughter, we are reminded yet again that today, out of all days, is a great time to be a Christian! We serve the turkey and cranberry sauce in a basketball gym, with flags raised up, and the nations around the table because Jesus is Lord, the gospel is true, and it pictures heavenly diversity right before our eyes.