Visions of feasting recur in our dreams. Two images of happiness predominate: the adventure and the feast. God describes what he has for us in the age to come in terms of a rich banquet with wine and meat.
There is something about laughing over a meal, holding a mug or glass with friends, and enjoying life, that we long for. It is in our movies as well as our dreams. In a romantic film, the scenes rush by of two people dining together in different settings. Feasting is even an essential of romance, apparently.
What is our fascination with feasting about?
Clearly, I like feasting. I joined Weight Watchers thirteen months ago and I am now at my ideal weight. But prior to that I had well over a decade of unchecked feasting. Feasting wasn’t just for feast times. I sought to fill holes in my life by making it every day. Perhaps you can relate.
And clearly my community in Atlanta likes feasting. Not only do we share a meal each Sabbath after worshipping, but we spend one week a year (Sukkot) camping and staying in cabins together, feasting sometimes until 2 am.
Think of all the many Jewish and Christian themes of feasting.
Abraham made a “little” meal of fattened calf, curds and milk, and much, much bread for his divine visitors in Genesis 18.
Moses and the elders ate a banquet with God atop Mt. Sinai in Exodus 24:9-11. I could mention the manna in the wilderness as well.
Isaiah spoke about the coming banquet with God of choice wines and fine meats in chapter 25.
Shabbat is a time set aside for three festive meals each week including special bread and wine to be blessed and enjoyed.
The three pilgrim feasts (Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot) are largely about food. Even the other feasts end up being largely about food (Yom Kippur is about abstaining). The old joke goes, “They tried to kill us. They failed. Let’s eat.”
Yeshua fed crowds with a few pieces of fish and bread.
His crowning moment with his disciples, a moment reenacted again and again by his followers after him, was a Passover meal (you know, the Last Supper).
The apostles urged us to be hospitable. One of them said that sharing meals with strangers is especially praiseworthy and that some who have done this have “entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2, referring to the Gen 18-Abraham story).
The early Yeshua communities were described by a handful of things like sharing property and “breaking bread in homes.”
My personal favorite is the saying of Yeshua in Matthew 26:29, “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Far from being a gnostic, spirit-only, immaterial religion, the faith of the Bible is holistic. Body and spirit are one. Great movements of the spirit occur with laughter and enjoyment of physical sustenance.
Those who do not think God or the community of people who love God have anything to offer choose feasting as a substitute. The common image of paradise for the never-darken-the-doors-of-church-or-synagogue people is Friday night at the Bar and Grill with a few friends.
How odd, then, that some religious communities so rarely engage in communal dining. Do some religious people think the opposite is true: feasting is for pagans, but when we get together it is for serious business like singing songs and listening to speeches?
Say what you will, but conversation over a glass of wine or tea and a roll or salad is connecting between persons on a higher level. You know someone much more thoroughly when you dine with them.
And the thing is, one day, one great day — and I think C.S. Lewis captures the image well in The Great Divorce— we will dine with the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days present in a deeper way than they are present now. The kingdom of God is nothing if it is not a feast.
See more about Feast and The World to Come and/or purchase them at MountOlivePress.com.