This Joyful Feast – July 8, 2007
Exodus 12:1-14, Revelation 19:1-9
July 8, 2007
Last time we “gathered at this table,” I had you think about the idea of “taking communion seriously.” Do you remember that? I told you the woes of the Corinthian Church, and how they had let this feast, which they celebrated every day, degrade to an unfavorable display where some ate and some went hungry. I reminded you also that this was not yet considered to be a “sacrament.”
As we thought about those things. I reminded us of the seriousness of what we do here. We may not consider this to be the actual body and blood of Christ, as do our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, but this is an important and mystical representation of the sacrifice of our Lord, as he told us himself. So this is serious stuff here, and we must take it seriously!
Today I want us to think about the other side of the coin. As I thought about this celebration for today, that idea of “celebration” kept playing on my mind. The Spirit seemed to be saying, “Yes. You gave them the serious part of this. Now tell them about the celebration!”
That’s what we’re doing today. But as we do that, the first thing I want you to see is that you can’t have one without the other. It is only when we see how serious this is that we can know the depth of the joy that we have in what is represented here. If we look at the sacrifice of Jesus represented here and think, as much of the world thinks, “No big deal,” then we will know neither the amazing nature of God’s grace, nor the depth of his love for us. And then this will not be much of a celebration, will it?
Well, let me tell you emphatically, that this is a celebration! The newer liturgy brings out that feeling. And I like that about this version. We say, “This is the joyful feast of the people of God. They will come from east and west and from north and south and sit at table in the Kingdom of God. This is the Lord’s table. Our savior invites those who trust in him to share this feast which he has prepared!” That’s the image we get of this sacrament in this liturgy. And that is an image that is reminiscent of the kingdom of God which is portrayed in the Bible as a banquet – a great feast!
That’s the image we have here! This is a joyful feast! And of course this isn’t feast in terms of quantity. If we came into a room and saw a table heaped with food and drink, we might say, “Wow, what a feast!” Just imagine one of our fellowship dinners!! But there isn’t that here. There’s just one small table, and it holds all the elements for the whole room. That’s not a lot of actual substance, is it? But this is a feast in terms of the great celebratory nature of what we do here!
That’s what I want us to think about today. I want us to think of that great “wedding banquet of the Lamb” as we have it portrayed for us in Revelation 19. And I want us to remember how that was a reference to the “feast of the Lord” which was given in Exodus at the time of the first Passover. That’s what’s being referred to here. But this time Christ is the Lamb. Isn’t it very cool that the end of the New Testament is tied directly to very early parts of the Old Testament.
I want us to think about that. I also want us to think about Jesus’ portrayal of the kingdom as a banquet in Matthew 22. He said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet to his son.” (Matthew 22:2) Jesus often used the banquet image in his parables and teachings.
As we think about all of that, I want us to think of sharing this joyful feast with Christ our Lord. I want us to picture in our minds that heavenly banquet, with Jesus sitting with us at the head of the table! Think of the joy and the glory and the celebration of that scene. Then I want us to think about that joyful feast, as we celebrate this joyful feast.
Now, I know sometimes that’s not easy for us Presbyterians. Within various Churches there are always these two elements of “the seriousness of our faith” and “the celebration of our faith.” On one hand we have the image of the dour, frowning people who are serious all the time, and believe that’s the demeanor that people of faith should have. And on the other hand, we have the image of people who are smiling, celebrating, exuberant. And we “Presby’s” too often have tended more toward the serious picture. We don’t shout “Amen” when the spirit moves us, as they do in other traditions. (Unless it follows the words, “I’m going to close my sermon now…”)
I’m not saying this because we are in a traditional service at this time, as opposed to contemporary. I wouldn’t be letting them off the hook either! All us Presbyterians tend to be that way. I’ve often talked about the way Presbyterians laugh in Church. And I don’t mean this Church necessarily – although sometimes I wonder. But I’ve seen this in all Churches. Presbyterians laugh by sort of looking around first, to see if anyone else is laughing! Like “Should we really be doing this?”
Well, I want to tell us, as Presbyterians, that there are plenty of times to think about the seriousness of what we do. And I don’t want to downplay that. We have that in our favor. But sometimes I think that’s the easy part of things. I want us to think today – and every day – about the joy of what we do. I want us to think about the celebration of this “celebration.” This is not a celebration like the celebration of a birthday we’d rather not see come! This is not “celebration” merely in terms of the “liturgical description” of this event, as in, “We celebrate Communion on such and such a date.”
This is a celebration! This is a joyful feast! This is a commemoration of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, and it is reminiscent of the kingdom of which he said we are a part! And so, let us take all of those images and thoughts and feelings and prepare our hearts anew for “this joyful feast” that is set before us!
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your great love for us shown in this your sacrament of praise and thanksgiving. Help us to share in this joyful feast with Christ our Lord. Increase in us the joy of your kingdom. Help us to be people in whom joy is seen by others. Help us to be your light to the world. This we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.