On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. Isaiah 25:6 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 Then the king said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Matthew 22:8-9
These three passages are from our assigned readings for October 11th. As you might know, I preached on the Gospel. But, there is so much more to say about these biblical gems and so I am taking ‘another shot’ from a different angle at them.
Lutherans that we are, we all know what is both reality as well as a source of not-so-subtle humor: our tradition has a proclivity toward food. Don’t know what to say when someone’s grieving? Bring food. Want to help out first-time parents? Bring food. Want to welcome the new neighbors? Bring food. What to do when someone is ill? Bring food. Want to get people to church on a given Sunday? Plan a potluck. I know, I know, during COVID these potlucks sound better and better, don’t they – oh, how fun it would be…Of course, there is always the question of the color and additives to our Jell-O salad (carrots or pineapple, cool whip or plain). Lutherans are good at feeding people; we simply are. That is not to say other faith traditions are not, but you know….
However, there is more to the centrality of food in the church than just Jell-O and Turkey sandwiches – even aside from the fact that our Lord Jesus regularly sat and ate with his friends and undesirable sinners. We serve a God of abundance, a God who regularly provides sustenance–from food for the first humans, to manna in the wilderness, to finest wine at a wedding feast, and finally to God’s own self in the Eucharistic meal. Throughout time, throughout the narrative of Scripture, God just keeps on giving and feeding and loving. Sure, there are plenty of occasions where God appears to be more than a little miffed (yes, striking people down or ordering a slaughter is a tough image of God to reconcile with the grace, mercy, and love we associate with Jesus), but nonetheless, the overarching message from these selected passages above is that God provides (notwithstanding the route I took with my sermon, that is).
In fact, looking at these biblical words, we might be tempted to think of an eager cook who keeps on heaping your plate with good things, cajoling you into another slice of a garden fresh tomato or another helping of strawberry shortcake. The abundance can be overwhelming, yet the last thing you want to do is offend a cook. It does not go well with one’s soul to refuse food. My children continue to accuse me of making way too much food. I just got an email from my youngest son last week making assumptions as to how many more food items than asked to provide I will bring along for the Thanksgiving meal. However, the next sentence asked me to be sure to bring along his favorite appetizer L J
The Gospel lesson illustrates that we do have the tendency to refuse God’s hospitality, or we seek it on our own terms when we want it. Worse yet, our choices and actions often serve to deny others a place at the table and their portion of God’s abundance. The pandemic has shown us once more how quickly folks can find themselves in sudden and overwhelming need of getting basic food to feed their families - standing in line for hours to pick up a few brown bags foods at a food pantry.
How does this connect with words about God’s abundance and provision? Evidence of God’s gracious providing is all around us, and yet many of us live with a sense of scarcity, fearing that there will not be enough for us, much less for anyone else. Our challenge, this week and every week, is to live into the reality of God’s provision, care, and abundance. In bread and wine, in word and deed, we are fed richly. There is more than enough for all and an open invitation to come to God’s table. May we never ignore the invitation and share the good news of the feast that never ends. Amen