About Grace HunterGrace is married, has 4 children one of whom is now in heaven. She enjoys reading, crocheting, puzzles, baking and spending time with her granddaughter. She and her husband have attended South Fellowship Church since 2014. She and her husband Jeff enjoy singing in the choir, working in the nursery and helping with the South Food Bank.
My husband and I have attended and facilitated several 13-week series of GriefShare classes. This is an amazing program, and I encourage anyone who is in a season of grief to look into these classes, as they are well worth attending for the learning and for sharing experiences. South is starting a new GriefShare series on January 29th. Every loss of a loved one is different, and all loss involves pain. Some losses include the added trauma of the particular way a person died, or from someone actually witnessing or participating in an unsuccessful attempt to resuscitate a loved one. It can be common for the grieving person to “replay” the death scene in his or her mind over and over or the last painful days of a loved one – because of the trauma of that particular death.
One of the helpful things I learned in attending GriefShare was that so much of our grieving takes place in our thoughts, in our minds, and in our emotions that those thoughts trigger. For me, I came to see Philippians 4:4-9 as an extremely practical method of learning how to stop replaying that tape in my mind.
Paul first encourages us to, “rejoice in the Lord always,” Philippians 4:4 NIV.
Second, he reminds us, “The Lord is near,” Philippians 4:5 NIV.
Third, he tells us how to pray, “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God,” Philippians 4:6 NIV.
Fourth, Paul assures us, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:7. NIV
In the above verses Paul lays out the plan how to leave those unhealthy tapes we replay in our minds, whatever we worry about, at the feet of Jesus. But I know for me, that if that was all I’m doing, those tapes would keep flooding back in a jiffy. I am glad Paul includes the next section. He tells us to replace those not so healthy thoughts with, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things,” Philippians 4:8. NIV
If you also find that an “unhealthy” tape is on replay in your mind, then
- Recognize the unhealthy tape is on replay
- Decide to stop
- Make a conscious decision – to focus on, to concentrate on, to think about something that is lovely, excellent or admirable, etc. (My amplified version)
When we shift our mental focus to what is true, noble and right in any situation, our anxiety and worry, and even the trauma we have experienced can lessen. We gain a healthier perspective in our current situation, and can take a step forward toward healing, even if we are on a grief journey.
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, `Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, `I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, `I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, `I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ “`Sir,’ the servant said, `what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, `Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'” Luke 14:15-22 NIV
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, `Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ “But they paid no attention and went off–one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. “Then he said to his servants, `The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. `Friend,’ he asked, `how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14 NIV
What is hospitality? Is it only inviting people over to dinner at your home? Could it involve making food for a new mom and her family and delivering it hot in disposable dishes so nothing needs to be returned? Could it include welcoming new people to our church in the lobby on Sunday morning? Surely it includes helping a disabled person in a wheelchair who needs help opening a heavy door. Maybe it is bringing craft items for children to make while they wait for parents to shop in our food bank. Could it include remembering someone’s name in greeting them and asking how we might pray for them?
Our passages this week describe an incredible feast. Both Luke 14:15-24 and Matthew 22:1-14 convey parables that inform us of the Kingdom of God. Read both passages. Notice the similarities and the differences. One similarity is that the host is extravagant in his preparations for the feast and in his desire to have many guests attend to enjoy his feast. The host is very hospitable, but some of the invited guests are not. In fact, some of them are quite rude and inconsiderate. Have you ever thought about how you treat your host as being “hospitable”? Have you realized that responding to a wedding invitation in a timely manner is another way of being hospitable? Both of these passages give us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. After reading both passages and looking at the differences and similarities, what strikes you the most about hospitality?
The host of the banquet in both of these passages is hospitable, welcoming and inviting to the marginalized in his city. How can we be the same? Perhaps you could write a letter to someone you know who is grieving, and let that person know you care, that you are praying for them, and offer help as needed. Perhaps you could make a meal for someone who is ill or has had surgery, or for a family with a new baby. Maybe you know someone who is currently in a discouraging season and could use a phone call, an encouraging note, or an in-person visit. If you are not currently involved in South’s Food Bank, we have opportunities twice a week to be a part of welcoming those who need the food we provide. Spend some time thinking about an unusual or unique way you could be hospitable to someone who needs to be welcomed and valued this week.