Sunday, March 31st, 2024

The Lord’s Feast

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus, Christ, Amen. Let us pray. O Lord send forth your word into our ears that it may bear fruit in our lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen. When you’re in charge of the menu, what do you choose? Is it chicken or fish? Do  you prefer steak, or just a nice salad? Is there any particular type of cuisine that you prefer? Do you like Asian, or Mexican, or Italian? I remember there were times when I was a kid that my parents would take us out to eat as a family, and we would go to the food court in the mall; that way everyone could get what they wanted. Mom could get a Philly cheese steak, I could get a slice from Sbarro, and my sister could get tacos. While malls have largely become a thing of the past, food courts are alive and well. Albuquerque has Tin Can Alley, Sawmill Market. Houston had a few of their own in the downtown area, because the convenience of having multiple options to satisfy the various appetites and cravings of a large group, well that’s enough to keep food courts in business. But sometimes the food court is not the best choice. Sometimes you want a special menu for a special meal like a wedding, or retirement celebration, maybe a plated dinner at a fundraiser, or a business dinner, where you’re trying to impress a potential client. So in the moments when the food court and variety isn’t the answer, if you are put in charge of the menu, what do you choose? The Old Testament reading you heard from Isaiah a few moments ago speaks of a feast, a special menu. This is the Lord’s feast. He is the host. On his mountain we hear the Lord of hosts will make a feast for all peoples, a feast of rich food, the best food. A feast of well-aged wine, the best wine, rich food full of marrow, full of flavor, will be on every plate, the best wine in every glass. In fact, feasting with God on his mountain comes up a few different times in the scriptures. It comes up at Mount Sinai immediately after delivering the Israelites out of Egypt; immediately after claiming them as his own, the Lord hosted a feast on the mountain for Moses and for the elders of Israel. After Moses offered burnt offerings to the Lord and read the book of the covenant to the people, then Moses and the elders ascended the mountain and had a meal with God. So also, in the Book of Revelation, we hear of another feast on the Lord’s mountain. This one is described as a wedding banquet. The voice of the great multitude cries out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exalt and give him the glory, for the marriage of the lamb has come.” And the Angel said to John, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And so in Exodus, and again in Revelation, our Lord hosts a feast to celebrate and to memorialize the ways that he claims people as his own. He claimed the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and he feasted with Moses and the elders. There’s a vision of the Saints in heaven and there’s a wedding banquet, but notice that in neither case do we hear what’s on the menu. Wonder what God chooses to serve at his banquets. That’s where Isaiah is helpful, because if we look again at today’s reading from Isaiah, you might notice something interesting. There’s a menu. For all the peoples, there’s food rich, full of marrow and the best wine. And that is not particularly surprising. But notice what’s on God’s plate. Notice what God consumes at this feast. He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all the peoples, the veil that is spread over the nations, he will swallow up death forever. In many ancient near Eastern cultures, like that in the days of Isaiah, the Pagan God Mot was considered the embodiment of death, kind of like our Grim Reaper today, and he was often pictured as having an insatiable appetite. Death swallowed up everything eventually, crops, buildings, people. Like a fire that consumes everything in its path, death was pictured as the great consumer, coming for us all. But Isaiah proclaims that on the mountain of the Lord, death will not consume anyone. In fact, death itself will be consumed. While the Lord feeds the people with the best wine and the best food, he himself devours death. He will swallow up death forever. Today we’re here to celebrate just that. Death has been swallowed up in victory. Our Lord was swallowed up in the darkness of death. He was placed into a tomb, swallowed by the earth. The entrance was sealed shut, but the grave could not hold him, he burst forth with the rising of the sun, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by immortality. When the Sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go and anoint him. They went to go cover the stink of death, but when they arrived at the tomb, death is not what they found. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe. Of course they were alarmed, so he said to them, “Do noy be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here.” Death tried to swallow up our Lord, but it could not hold him and now our Lord has swallowed up death forever, and he invites us to the banquet of life. We have a preview of that feast here in the Supper of our Lord’s body and blood. While our Lord consumes death, he feeds us the bread of life, the food of immortality. In this meal he gives us a foretaste of the feast to come, as we await the day of resurrection, the day when we will be gathered together with all the faithful at the marriage feast of the Lamb in his Kingdom which has no end. We say already today what will be said at that feast. “Behold this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. And save us, he has, for Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, raised from the dead. He will never die again. Death has no more dominion over him. So let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Dying, Christ, died to sin once for all. Living, he lives to God. Therefore, count yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. I don’t know what will be on the menu at the heavenly banquet. I don’t know what exactly the best food and the best wine are on the mountain of the Lord. What I do know is that the Lord himself has swallowed up death. He has promised us that his resurrection is but the first fruits, and that we and all who have gone before us in faith, we are the full harvest. And so, when we do finally arrive at our Lord’s feast, it will be a joyful reunion with those we love who have gone before us in the faith. We will be seated around the table of our Lord, where God himself will wipe away every tear from every face, and death will be no more, neither will there be mourning, or crying, or pain anymore. The former things have passed away, and even now, we already enjoy a glimpse of that future reality each time we gather at this rail, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven. For here our Lord comforts us. Here he wipes away all our tears. Here the Lord delivers to us the gift of life. So, when it comes our time, and the grave tries to swallow us, it will be left hungry for more. The grave cannot hold you. Death has been swallowed up in victory. Christ is risen. Hallelujah! He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!