My childhood is filled with so many visions of gathering and feasting. One of my clearest memories growing up was of Thanksgiving. We would take the forty-five minute drive up the back-roads to my aunt and uncle’s house. The house would be filled with cousins and all sorts of other family members. We would fill up all the tables in the house and feast on food that I looked forward to every year.
My maternal grandmother lived out west, fifteen hundred miles from our home, and every other year we would make the trek to visit her and all my mother’s family. I have clear memories of my uncle’s house being filled to the brim with all my mother’s brothers, sisters, and their spouses and children; more cousins than I could ever think to remember or even know. And the spread that would be laid out on the kitchen counter was amazing; so much it would overflow into other rooms on any extra counter space that could be had.
But time marches on and people move in and out of lives. I’ve lost uncles and aunts, houses have been sold, families have dwindled, and I find myself wondering where those feasts of my growing up have gone?
I fell in love with the show Parenthood, like most fans, because of the characters and the amazing writing. But my second time through watching it I realized the scenes in the backyard when all the family would gather under the twinkle lights were the scenes that kept me coming back for more. It was the feasting together that pricked the depths of my heart.
Feasting is rich in all the greatest novels. In The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the elves feast like none other. Their tables are filled with all the beauty and richness their world can offer. Even though the hobbits and dwarves don’t understand the richness of their food, the bounty that is laid before them is something that even a dwarf would have a hard time turning down. But my favorite scene of feasting comes towards the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
The travelers come upon an enchanted table. Around the table sit three men before a bounty of a feast that hasn’t been touched. These men have been asleep for so long that their beards have grown around all the food and beautiful settings around the table. Despite their hunger, Caspian’s group fearfully declines trying to eat any of the awesome feast before them. They worry the enchantment that sits upon these bearded men might find its way through the food to them. After much discussion, Eustace, Caspian, Lucy, Reepicheep and Edmund decide to sit at the table during the night to see what might happen. They can feel the magic all around them in this place. So they sit in the darkness before an amazing feast that they dare not touch. Can you imagine?
They are saved from their torment by a vision of light coming towards them. This light is revealed to be a beautiful woman and the first thing she wonders is, why are they not feasting? How could they sit before such richness and not devour it? It is only when they know the food is there for their good and not their harm and that it is refreshed every evening — then they feast. Is this not like the manna that God provided to the Israelites?
But what about the one sailor who wasn’t allowed to go with them to the ends of the world and had to remain on the island with the sleepers? Every night this bountiful feast is replenished and every night he chooses not to partake of it. He refuses to sit at a lonely table with only the sleepers for company. The only other ones present at the feast weren’t really present; and can one really enjoy a feast alone?
Hospitality is not really my gifting. Setting a table and planning a meal overwhelms me. That said, my introverted heart is filled with pleasure in the space of time after dinner where everyone lingers at the table. Bellies are full, good drinks are flowing and a peace settles. I long to linger because that is the after. The preparation is done, we’ve hopefully all been satisfied and now we can rest. We sit after the feast together. This is a small picture of what the Lord’s table should be for us.
Once a year our church hosts an annual Maundy Thursday feast and it is the one time of the year when we are truly able to linger over our communion meal. To sit and eat the meal that reminds us of the purpose of Holy week and then feast is by far the highlight of our church calendar. But it’s that chance to sit and linger afterwards that satisfies my soul. I long to approach my weekly communion meal in the same way. I want to sit and savor the reality of what Christ did for me. God invites me into this space where through his body and blood I can have a taste of the power that overcomes the anxieties that well up and dries the tears that fall over the loneliness of often sharing a feast with just the sleepers.
One of my favorite hymns is all about feasting. The chorus is a reminder of this feast to come, where God will wipe all our tears away and there will be no more pain or sorrow. So we sing it as a reminder that:
We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more
In the midst of everything, it’s the one feast that I can sing of and long for. I can know that I will be fully satisfied and the darkness of the night, the vows that I’ve broken, the betrayals and the constant fear will be removed.
The scenes in the backyard of the Braverman house are the one place where this family comes together and rests. Despite the heartaches that they’ve been through and the pain they might have caused each other, they still come together over this table. They might come begrudgingly, but they still come. They know that this table brings with it not only good food, but this table brings the beginning of healing to their family. I have a tiny taste of the pleasure and peace to come after every Maundy feast and every Sunday when I come to the table. The small feast of bread and wine is a taste of the feast to come in the house of Zion. It is a reminder of the restoration time when we will all sit at Aslan’s table and eat without fear the feast that continues to be reset night after night after night.
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