On Thanksgiving, we spend time with families and friends enjoying a great meal together. It’s a great time. For me — and I’m sure many others — it’s the best time of year.
I like it better than Christmas. There’s less of an agenda. I have a large family and it’s a huge undertaking, but it doesn’t require months of shopping and weeks of decorating. It’s just food and family and football.
The Lord’s Supper is symbolic of many things, but one symbol we sometimes overlook is God’s great banquet, prophesied by Isaiah–
(Isa 25:6-9) On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. 9 In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Jesus tells us more about God’s great banquet–
(Luke 14:16-24) “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. …
21 “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.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “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. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
Jesus tells us that not only will God provide for his children in abundance, but he’ll invite, plead, and cajole the poor and the stranger to join in. It’s hard for us to see this meaning because what we eat is a dry crust of bread and a tiny sip of grape juice. This “banquet” would starve a mouse! And yet the early church understood the meal differently.
The early church took communion as part of a weekly common meal — a covered dish dinner — where the congregation enjoyed fellowship and ate well. The meal was called the agape.
We translate this “love feast” but the word just means love. And as Thanksgiving shows us, eating together is the most natural way there is to enjoy and bestow love within a family.
But the early church did more than eat a meal and show love to each other. The love feast was also an occasion of sharing with the poor. As Tertullian wrote around 210 AD,
Our feast shows its motive by its name. It is called by the Greek word for love. Whatever … the cost, money spent in the name of religion is gain, since with that refreshment we benefit the needy. … As is so with God, there is a greater consideration for the lowly.
Everett Ferguson explains,
The love feast … was the social, convivial aspect which perhaps especially attracted many persons. The sharing of food by the wealthier with the poorer was an important means of charity.
The Lord’s Supper prefigures the heavenly meal we’ll all eat with God. And just as God seeks the forgotten, lowly of society to join in his meal, this meal must be a remembrance of our obligation to the needy in our society.
We are called to invite others to feast at the Lord’s Table. And this is both a spiritual feast to be held in heaven in God’s mansion and a physical feast for the community of Christ and all whom God seeks.
And so, as we share in this “supper,” let’s make a commitment or two.
First, let’s commit to find each other at the Great Banquet in heaven — to sit together at God’s dinner table. I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but heaven just wouldn’t be heaven without my brothers and sisters from here at church!
Second, we are the servant in Jesus’ parable. Jesus is calling us to invite everyone in to join in this meal. The “poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” and the stranger and the traveler.
You see, we aren’t looking for “seekers.” Rather, God is the seeker. The others are the sought after. And it’s our job to get the word out.
This was never meant to be a private meal. Rather, it’s a celebration of the Lord’s bounty — a bounty that is to be shared.