Family meals have changed a lot in my lifetime. When I was growing up, my parents expected all family members would be home for supper where we all ate together. The table was our gathering place where our family not only shared food, but also shared our lives. The family meal has helped us stay connected, although we live in different part of the country.
Many families today “eat on the run.” Family communication and the social aspects of community life are fading away. Some families eat while watching television programs. All this has weakened family life and the ability to know what is happening in each other’s journey.
The way we operate as a society can affect our worship. On the Lord’s day, we come together as God’s family around the Lord’s table (the altar) to share a meal that God has provided for us. As we listen to our stories and obey Jesus’ command, “Take and eat” and “Take and drink”, do we experience being part of God’s family? Do we appreciate the divine food that God gives us for our journey?
The image of a meal is very important in the Bible. The Lord often invites us to share a well-prepared meal.
In Isaiah, the prophet proclaims, “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. (Isa 25:6)
In Psalm 23 the author writes, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Jesus often used parables about wedding feasts and banquets to describe some aspect of God’s kingdom. In all these images our generous God is the eternal party-giver who has prepared the best for us and invited us to come and enjoy.
In the parable of the king who has planned a royal wedding feast for his son, the would-be guests never became guests for what they considered good reasons. The underlying message of the would-be guests is, “I have something better to do. I’m not interested.”
God is still inviting people to the wedding. Weddings are about relationship and love. They are about trust and commitment. They are about oneness. The problem is that oneness does not always go over well in a world addicted to separation. Trust does not gain acceptance from people who live in fear or behind walls. Commitment does not make sense to a world looking for perfection from others and not from oneself. Even an invitation to relationship and love is not inviting to those turned in on themselves.
The divine invitation is just as real today as in Jesus’ day. Those who refuse the invitation to God’s banquet believe they have very good reasons. When God invites us to be forgiving, we often refuse the invitation telling ourselves that the grudge we hold is better for us. When invited to the banquet of sharing, we might point to welfare cheats and justify our selfishness. We might even attempt to “kill” the prophets who bring the message, accusing them of being radical or liberals, or whatever other negative labels we can cast upon their message.
We are invited into a kingdom where God loves us more than we can imagine. We can have so many reasons for believing that we are not lovable. We can also have a difficulty loving the rest of the folks whom God has made.
The question is, “Are we ready individually, as a nation, as a culture, and as a church to accept the invitation that God is still holding out to us? Are we ready to answer “yes?”