What was the last feast you were invited to, that you went to? Was it a wedding feast, a birthday feast, a Christmas feast, an Easter feast, an anniversary feast? Feast: you know—a lavish dinner, where there is more than enough of everything, where you push back from the table and pat your overfull belly. Feast: you know—where you are celebrating something, something important, something that is life changing or reminds you of something that was life changing.
What was the last feast you were invited to, that you attended? Did you need to go in order to get the food, to get the drink because if it wasn’t for the feast you would have gone hungry, your kids wouldn’t have had enough to eat. Did you need to go the feast because only the host of feast had the resources at her disposal to fill the hunger in your stomach?
My guess is that for most of us here, that is not the case. It was good to go to the feast, it was great to eat the food, to pour back the drinks, but we could have put on a similar feast in our own home or we could of gone to a restaurant somewhere and gotten a meal of the same quality and had little trouble paying for it—after all, we have our own resources.
Some words from Jesus in Luke 14,
…one of those at the table…said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one 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 compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. (Luke 14:15–23 NIV11)
There are a bunch of people who believe that they don’t need to come to the banquet, they have their own resources, they can get their own meal. But there are others, the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame who know that this is an offer that can’t be passed by because they don’t have the resources, they could never provide a meal like this for themselves, for them to get this kind of meal is an amazing grace, for them to sit in the house of the master, in Greek the word is Kurios which means Lord, for them to sit in the house of the Lord, at the table of the Lord, to join in his feast is an amazing grace.
In the house of the Lord, at the table of the Lord where a banquet, a feast is given that comes only by amazing grace. At the heart of what the Bible calls the Lord’s Supper and what others call the Eucharist or Communion because of what Jesus said during the Supper, at the heart of the Lord’s Supper is this: God, the fountain of all good, is giving a Spiritual Banquet, a Spiritual Feast to his adopted children. He has them in his house and at his table, and on the table is a Spiritual Feast of bread and wine. It is a banquet of amazing grace, for it provides what no one can provide for herself, it is a banquet of stunning gratitude, for those who receive it overflow with gratitude for the Spiritual feast.
A Spiritual feast: in this supper we find one way God gives his adopted kids the key nourishment they need for living life, for living as his adopted children. A key nourishment that unites his children more and more to Christ and so also to him.
A Spiritual feast for those who already are God’s kids because they have believed in Jesus Christ. These people sit at the table believing that Jesus died for their sins on the cross as the perfect Son of God and so opened the way for them to be adopted as God’s children. Just like they are the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame who can’t provide the banquet for themselves, so they know that they can’t provide their own way to become children of God, that way has to be made for them through Jesus Christ. The response to what Jesus has done is faith. The 16th century confession, the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes the Bible’s teaching on faith this way,
Q. What is true faith?
ALL: True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true;
Pastor: it is also a deep-rooted assurance, All: created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel,
Pastor: that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, All: not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, Pastor: and have been granted salvation.
If you want to participate in the feast in a way that benefits of the feast flow to you, you need to believe. There is no magic in this feast so that taking it apart from belief does a person any good. The Feast and Faith go together.
The other thing is that this feast unites more and more to Christ and so to the father. John Calvin says an amazing thing about this
Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers in his gifts which the Father gave to him. We don’t think of Jesus, therefore, outside of ourselves, as if he is far off, but rather as the brother whose perfect righteousness has been credited to us. We put on Christ and engrafted into his body—in short…he deigns to make us one with him.
Christ deigns, he graciously stoops, humbles himself so that we can become one with him. In the Feast the Holy Spirit so empowers the bread and the wine that it deepens our oneness with Jesus, it connects us even more the gifts with the Father gave him, but more than all of that it connects us to the Father.
More than all of that because it is in the connection to the father, who is the fountain of all good. The Psalmist says
“That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous; yes, my whole body will rest in safety because you won’t abandon my life to the grave; you won’t let your faithful follower see the pit. You teach me the way of life. In your presence is total celebration. Beautiful things are always in your right hand.” (Psalms 16:9–11 CEB)
“But your loyal love, LORD, extends to the skies; your faithfulness reaches the clouds. Your righteousness is like the strongest mountains; your justice is like the deepest sea. LORD, you save both humans and animals. Your faithful love is priceless, God! Humanity finds refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the bounty of your house; you let them drink from your river of pure joy. Within you is the spring of life. In your light, we see light.” (Psalms 36:5–9 CEB)
Here is what the Psalmist is saying, what the Bible says overall: our true and perfect happiness comes from being united to the Father who is the fountain of all good. How do we know that his the fountain of all good, the Father we have all longed for? We know it because he has so loved us that he did not spare his one and only son but sent him into the world to die for us so we could be his adopted children, children who receive God’s spiritual blessings that hold us in life and in death.
The year is 1567, the place, a miserable dungeon. Inside that dungeon, Guido De Bres. De Bres is there because he has written a summary of what the Bible teaches and there is a king who does not at all like how De Bres has understood the Bible. As De Bres’ day of execution draws closer he sits in his cell and writes a letter to his wife, Catherine.
My dear and well beloved wife in our Lord Jesus,
Your grief and anguish, troubling me in the midst of my joy and gladness, are the cause of my writing you this present letter. I most earnestly pray you not to be grieved beyond measure…If the Lord has wished me to live longer, he could have easily caused it so to be. But such was not his pleasure. Let his good will be done then, and let that suffice for all reason. Moreover, consider that I have not fallen into the hands of my enemies by chance, but by the providence of my God which guides and governs all thing, small as well as great…I pray you, my dear and faithful companion, to be glad with me, and to thank the good God for what he is doing, for he does nothing but what is altogether right and good…. I am shut up in the strongest and wretchedest of dungeons, so dark and gloomy that it goes by the name, Black Hole. I can get but little air, and that of the foulest. I have on my hands and feet heavy irons which are a constant torture, galling the flesh even to my poor bones. But notwithstanding all, my God fails not to make good his promise, and to comfort my heart, and to give me a most blessed content…. I pray you then, to be comforted in the Lord, and to commit yourself and your affairs to him, for he is the husband of the widow and the father of the fatherless, and he will never leave nor forsake you…
No matter what is happening in our lives, the Father, who has shown his love toward us through the giving of his son, is the fountain of all good—however that good shows itself, a good that is rooted first and foremost in God’s gift of making us his adopted children through Jesus Christ.
Those who take part in this feast are those who are adopted children of God by believing in Jesus Christ. This feast, though the power of the Spirit, unites us more and more to Christ and all his gifts, the Christ who longs to make us one with him, and so to the Father who is the fountain of all good.
One of the amazing goods that God brings home to us every time we gather in his house and sit around his table is that as we eat the bread and drink from the cup that we assured of God’s good will toward us. God’s love toward us. God’s heart for us. Or putting it another way, we can let go of our anxiety of not being good enough. Our anxiety of having to get it right every time with God and with people. Our anxiety of only being as good as our last performance—which seems to be such a theme in our culture, that we are only as good as our last performance, as long as we perform well we are liked and accepted, but if we blew that last performance…whether we failed to perform for our parents, our boss, or God…we are in a bad way. When we eat the bread and drink from the cup we are assured of God’s good will toward us. A good will that has nothing to do with our performance, but rather with what Christ performed on the cross. Since it it Christ’s performance, a once and for all performance, that counts, we never fear that God will withdraw from us, that he will stop being our fountain of good, instead we remember at the table the God’s will toward us is good.
It is a good will that reminds us at this supper that finally no matter what is happening in our lives, no matter the suffering, the disappointments, the struggles that God’s good will towards us means that we are heading toward a good end. When the Apostle Paul writes about this supper he says that we are to keep this supper until the return of Christ. The Lord’s supper declares that life has a good end. It does it by being the feast of the last days, the end of the age. A feast that points to the great feast, the wedding feast of the Lamb to let us see into that great day when he returns. Revelation,
Then I heard what seemed to be a large crowd that sounded like a roaring flood and loud thunder all mixed together. They were saying, “Praise the Lord! Our Lord God All-Powerful now rules as king. So we will be glad and happy and give him praise. The wedding day of the Lamb is here, and his bride is ready. She will be given a wedding dress made of pure and shining linen. This linen stands for the good things God’s people have done. (Revelation 19:6–8 CEV)
The world ends not with a whimper, not with a bang, but with the laughter, the joy, the celebration, the community, the love, the awe of a wedding feast. Life has a good end and the Lord’s Supper gives a foretaste of God’s amazing future celebration. As one person reminds us, Because the bridegroom has come, he offers the wedding feast now, and, though the feast the church celebrates is perhaps only a crumb or two from the table, it is a real anticipation of that future feast.
Because we come to the table and find God’s good will toward us we relate to God out of joy and with deep gratitude. Our relationship with him is one of joy, our response to him is one of being a grateful, joyful, playful child of the king. As those children, as children who know their father as the fountain of all good, they now become a fountain of good.
A fountain of good where living that out is shaped by being at the table. At the table, looking around the table what you see is not just me and Jesus or just me and the Father, what you see is the family gathered around the table. The Lord’s Supper is a family meal, it is stunningly communal. John Calvin gets to this as he speaks about the words “our father” in the Lord’s prayer
…we are not instructed that each one of us should individually call him his Father, but that all of us in communion should call him, our Father. From this fact we are [taught] how great a feeling of brotherly love ought to be among us, since we have all been adopted through the same great mercy and liberality of the Father. Since one father is common to all of us and every good thing we have comes from him we need to be prepared to gladly and wholeheartedly share with one another as far as the occasion requires.
When we are at the table, we see the family of our father. We know the family has needs, needs for the children of the family, needs for the sick in the family, needs for the addicted in the family, needs for the broken in the family, needs for the poor in the family and we respond joyfully, consistently to those needs through our generosity of financial resources, of the gift of our time and our talents to meet the needs of the family. We do this as we mimic the fountain of all good that we have experienced and continue to experience in our lives.
A fountain of good that extends beyond the local family of God that we are a part of and indeed extends beyond the family of God. Paul reminds us in Galatians 6.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9–10 NIV11)
Calvin gives an interesting twist to this when he says,
All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.
Here is something that we need to understand: To fail to do this is to show that we really don’t understand what’s going on in the house and at the feast. We don’t get the connection of grace and gratitude. That when grace truly gets into our hearts gratitude follows. If you don’t have a heart that is overflowing with gratitude which shows itself by being a fountain of good to those within and outside God’s family, you have not fully experienced or understood God’s grace. You are trying to tear apart grace and gratitude or putting it another way you are trying to tear apart being made right with God through Jesus Christ and living the life that flows from being made right with God. Todd Billings in Union with Christ writes,
To try to acquire God’s pardon without entering into the new life give in Christ would be to tear Christ in two—to tear Christ apart. Put in terms of adoption…it would be to accept the legal status of being God’s child but to refuse to move into God’s house, to call God Father, and to act as his adopted child… We need not only adoption into God’s family and forgiveness of sins; we need also to learn how to grow into our new identity as adopted children of the Triune God.
Which brings us back to the house and to the table and the importance of enjoying God’s spiritual feast. For the feast, the Lord’s Supper one very important way that God nourishes us for this life as his adopted children. When you eat the bread and drink from the cup the Spirit unites you to Christ, empowers you to live as an adopted child of God. When you sit at the table and take the time to think and reflect on how it is by grace you sit at the table, the Spirit works in you to shape you into a person of gratitude. The supper, when we engage in it deeply, not just as some ritual, but engage in it deeply as those who were poor, crippled, blind and lame but are now children of the king transforms us into those who know and experience the fountain of all good and who shaped by his grace and filled with gratitude become a fountain of good in the family and in the world.