Date: 22 Apr 2000
I have not noticed much discussion of the Isaiah 25:6-9 lection this week. But it has to be one of the greatest, most hopeful, most relevant-to-our-times passages in all of scripture.
I am calling my sermon "Resurrection Banquet" and, while not "Christianizing" Isaiah, I am allowing the imagery of the Isaiah passage to suffuse my Easter preaching. I am concluding the sermon by inviting the congregation to join in a litany written twenty years ago by Judy Chicago (The Dinner Party) and recently quoted in Holly Whitcomb's book, Feasting with God:
And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both men and women will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to another's will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And then the greed of some will give away to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earth's abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish life's creatures
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.
Then, during the singing of Easter hymns following the sermon, folks from the congregation who have prepared elements of a great feast, will come in from all the various doors of the sanctuary bringing a table cloth and "a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear" (Isaiah 25:6). They also will be carrying loaves of communion bread and chalices. The table cloth will be placed on the communion table, the foods of the abundant feast set down, the loaves of bread and chalices will be placed all around the perimeter of the table, and the wine will be poured. After appropriate liturgy, folks will be invited to come to the Lord's feast table, to the "resurrection banquet table," for Communion amidst the feast. Yes, indeed, "taste and see that the Lord is good."
At the end of worship, all those who would be dining alone on Easter or who do not have specific plans for Easter dinner will be invited to stay and we will share the "feast of rich food" together.
A few brief notes about Isaiah 25 I have found helpful (there is so much in the imagery of these few verses; please mine this passage for yourself, if not this year, then when this passage comes 'round again in three years):
a.. the great feast mirrors the universal theme so prized by Isaiah and the prophets- "Ho! EVERYONE who thirsts (or is hungry), come to the waters (to the feast)!" b.. the end of things is to be a celebration; this is the substance of hope c.. it does not deny "the way things are"...check the imagery of verse 7- "the shroud that is cast over all peoples; the sheet that is spread over all the nations" d.. YET..."the Lord will swallow up death forever; the Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; and the disgrace of God's people God will take away from all the earth." Verse 9: "This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in the Lord's salvation."
Yes...Easter as "resurrection banquet"...celebrating, anticipating, rejoicing in "all things made new" by God. Let the image of the banquet with a table big enough for all inform our present living.
By the way, the best commentary on Isaiah, and on this particular passage, I ever have read is Daniel Berrigan's Isaiah: Spirit of Courage, Gift of Tears (a "must" read). A close second is Walter Brueggemann's Isaiah.
The peace of the Lord to all of you. Blessed Easter.
Tom Sweet First Presbyterian Church Jamestown, New York
Date: 31 Oct 2000
I remember my grandma at holiday meals...her expected presence, the way she always complained that mom or dad had put too much food on her plate. even the funny way she chewed ...
My grandma died nearly 10 years ago... Yet, there is not a holiday meal in our family at which she is not present. All who gather remember. She is there.
I think of the eucharist ... the holy communion ... all the saints ... present... gathered at the table of our Lord ... a fortaste of the feast to come.
Just some rambling thoughts from PJ in NJ
Date: 02 Nov 2000
The common theme that attracts and appeals to me in the OT, Epistle, and the Gospel is the ideas around tears. Verse 8 talks about the Sovereign LORD wiping away the tears. John 11 is "awash in tears" according to one source I read. I liked that description. Revelation anticipates a time of "no more tears". I can't help but think of Johnson's baby shampoo with the slogan, "No more tears." Just the image of Sovereign LORD wiping our tears - is powerful. PK in OHIO
Date: 03 Nov 2000
I to have the same image in my mind after reading the Isaiah passage. The image of a great meal, my family's Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, were truly wonderful banquets...
I remember waiting for the time to eat as a child. It seemed that the time to dine would never come. I remember how difficult the anticipation was, then how wonderful the meal was, how filling and completely satisfying it was. We had a tradition of preparing food that honored or memorialized persons in our family. My grandmother's fruit salad, my other grandmother's dinner salad, my mother's sweet potatoes with marshmellows melted on top... and the desserts.
God's table is of course much more satisfying, yet, this is how we can invision. Though we have to wait, sometimes even with hunger pains in their various forms, God's feast will fill us, will satisfy us.
Of course we link communion with the great banquet... celebrating when we gather around the altar, we gather with Christ and all of the Saints in our lives....It is truly a time to commune with and for all of our saints.
Come to the table,,,its' supper time.
Date: 04 Nov 2000
PK - Thanks for pointing out the common theme of tears in these three readings. As I have been pondering All Saints' Sunday & thinking about Saints, a verse from Billy Joel's song, "Only the Good Die Young" keeps surfacing in my mind.
"They say there's a heaven for those who will wait Some say it's better but I say it ain't I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints Sinners are much more fun... And only the good die young"
-- esp. the line about rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints--
Where did we get the idea that being a saint is no fun & that being a sinner is all fun? We who believe in Jesus are both Saints & Sinners - "simul justice et picatur" as Martin Luther said. And both saints & sinners cry. But it is God who wipes away the tears of his people.
JG in NJ