“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isa. 25: 6 – 9)
Well, death being swallowed up is some reason to party. It may take ages upon ages to fully greet the people who’ve gone before and the people who will come after. Just think of the toasts we might propose to each one, including our beloved animals. Maybe the final judgement will be more like that than an angry judge scowling at how we failed in this life. Though I think that we are all destined for fire that will cleanse all that is not of love’s kind, all that is not true to God’s idea when he made us.
I think there will be rejoicing just like when the prodigal son came home and his father was so glad to see him, he threw a party, just like when Jesus talked about his kingdom being like a wedding feast, just like those beautiful passages in Revelation that echo, a great party for everyone.
Brad and Eden Jersak during the second week of the Open Table Conference’s Advent meetings talked about the hospitality of following Jesus. The Jersak’s are easy with sharing their table with others. Eden works to cook meals that meet the needs of the people attending. She wants her meals to look effortless so her guests feel most welcome. (A recording of this talk is available as Advent 2 on https://Vimeo.com/showcase/9064546.)
Eden challenged us to prepare for the presence of God coming to us here and now. She said we could start our days telling God our eyes and ears are open to his coming. She says, “We can meet Christ in everyone…There’s rarely a day I don’t expect the coming of Christ. It’s not a rare event.”
But, but, I suck at parties. Big time. A few weekends ago we were invited to a party with friends a few townships over. I’m so bad at parties and memory that I completely forgot about our invitation until Bruce came home from working on the parsonage and asked, “Aren’t we going to Sandy and John’s party?” Uh yes. I’d even asked someone else to cover my altar guild duties that night. I hurried with early chores and, rolled on extra deodorant, sprayed perfume and changed my shirt and pants. We arrived at the early end of the party because we still wanted to go to church a couple ten miles in the other direction.
Sandy had laid about a beautiful spread–a dozen different kinds of cookies, Italian beef, marvelous sweet pickles, cheese, croissant sandwiches, cheese cake, punch, brownies along with soda and beer on the porch. It was a veritable feast that was exactly what Eden talked about, laid out in such a way that looked effortless and bountiful. Stepping into Sandy and John’s home is like stepping into a hundred year old house that looks brand-new because John lovingly renovated the woodwork and restored it to look like it did a century ago.
Bruce and I backed into a corner by the food, kitty corner from the front door. I sat in the chair while we munched. Bruce brought treats he wanted to share with me. (We aren’t necessarily part of the neighborhood but we have joined them in an activist protest about a troubling local development. We are well organized, persistent and patient and effective.) Every time someone I knew walked in, I tried to strike up a conversation about what I thought were mutual interests but they walked away. I figured they didn’t want to be reminded our protest on a beautiful warm Saturday afternoon.
As I said, I suck at parties. I back into a corner, nibble and watch people. I cling to Bruce, who is more outgoing, remembering people’s names, even though he has a reputation for being the quiet one. When I was younger I knew how to work a party. A poet paramour told me I had charm as he watched me at a grad school party introduce myself to the agent and publisher who were there. His naming my charm stood me in good stead in my public relations career and during those years I could work parties, and introduce myself to journalists I’d never met before. But that was my role. It’s funny how our roles in life can make us
And lately I suck at friendship which in someways is a mini party. I give too much advice, listen too much without telling my own story or I whine, cry and complain about my woe is me. I can inadvertently snub someone at church because I’m focused on a favorite person. Mercy.
On the other hand that poem in Isaiah says there will be a feast of well-aged wine, so maybe that will grease my awkwardness. In some ways we’re already being readied for this party by celebrating the eucharist, where we take bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, with others who will be in the Kingdom along with us, people we might not necessarily like, who might be awkward at parties too. My friend Alison says parties take practice, so maybe that’s what the Eucharist is, practice.
Even so I have no idea how I’ll fare when that great joyous banquet explodes on the earth. With the shroud cloaking all peoples removed, with death no more, well, there’s going to be so much dancing the world will rock so hard maybe the mountains will bounce and trees clap their hands and rivers wave like sidewinders.
Oh and here’s what we saw when we pulled out of John and Sandy’s driveway.
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Is that beautiful table in your house, Katie? And is that a sillouette of Bruce sitting in a rocker beside the antique spindle in the room behind this dining room? Karen and I just love your photos of your farm and home.
You DON’T “suck at parties.” Just showing up is most of what the host wants from us. There’s as much a place for the corner nibblers watching the party as there is for the so-called “life of the party.” In fact if only the “life of the party” showed up without any watching nibblers, THAT party would suck . . . and the host would be grieved.
Remember what Jesus said about the King who threw a party and none of the invited guests showed up? He sent his servants out into the highways and byways to compel the uninvited into his house. THAT’S how much the King loves a good party!
Who is going to sit at that beautiful table in your beautiful house with that beautiful husband of yours who will help you remember the names of your guests? By the way, Karen does that for me too. There’s always the side question I quietly ask my beautiful bride in a whisper, “What’s his name? What’s her name?” Jesus KNOWS our names, even the real ones He hasn’t given us yet. How like Jesus is Bruce in this!
At church last Sunday, Karen and I were sipping our cocoa and we saw a young woman who helped us teach Sunday School that they call “Kids’ Corner” in our new, cool contemporay fellowship that goes by the name “The Vertical Church.” At least it has the word “church” in its name. A local spinoff from “Vertical” goes by the name “Rock” and another one is called “New Mountain.” You gotta hide that word “church” these days if you want to attract the young people, I guess.
But I digress.
Anyway, we recognized this particular young woman as one of the more delightful and enthusiastic helpers that we’ve had teaching the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. She always has a beautiful smile. She’s a single twenty-something transplant from Ohio who was very active in the church she grew up in there. She wears glasses and has the slight scar on her upper lip from an infant cleft palate surgery. She appears like she’s from Asia, perhaps adopted I think to myself for some reason, but we don’t actually know yet very much of her still-young story. When we approached her as she was sitting alone sipping her hot chocolate in the little cafe area of our church foyer . . . which is a standard feature now for all the new, cool contemporary whatever they call themselves that usually aren’t called churches these days . . . the first thing I said by way of introduction was that we remember her from Sunday School last year, but we couldn’t remember her name. “Oh THANKS a lot,” she replied with a laugh and then proceeded to tell us that she’d just gotten back from Ohio where she attended the wedding of two of her former church youth group friends, and then she whipped out her phone to show us the photos of her friends and all of her youth group who all still go to the same church because none of them are movers like she is and they never will be. She also volunteered that she’s not thinking of marriage herself right now because she’s too focused on her career, answering a question that we hadn’t even thought of asking, but maybe she’s been asked too often. When I again asked her name, she laughed again and reminded us that her name is “Abby.”
“Abby Thanks-A-Lot!” I christened her with my new mnemonic that I made up on the spot to help me remember Abby’s name the next time we see her as we all laughed again! Then we said that we needed to get to the next service and we parted ways.
“Abby Thanks-A-Lot,” what a great name . . . and what a delightfully beautiful soul she is!
“We have to invite Abby home for a meal or for home group,” I told Karen when we were heading into the church “auditorium,” (not “sanctuary”) with the stadium seats that have cup-holders instead of pews. “Maybe we could match her up with Jason.” Jason is the thirty something bachelor high school biology teacher who comes to our “The Chosen” watch party home group on Friday nights. “Jason’s too old for Abby,” Karen said even though my beautiful bride is two years older than me. Thinking of Joseph and Mary this Christmas, I said, “I don’t know about that. There’s Biblical precedent.”
As I write this, the thought just occurred to me, “I wonder where Abby Thanks-A-Lot will be having Christmas dinner?”
Maybe at our table.
Yes that table is in our house. We gave the dishes to Bruce’s nephew though because I was never using them and I needed the space where I stored them, to put away odds and ends. I’m very, very slowly doing death cleaning with stuff we can let go of. It was okay with Bruce to let them go too.
Thanks for loving the photos of our home and farm. It’s the farm that makes the photos good. It’s my way of sharing our place.
WIse words about how the King wants us to show up at the party. And that there’s room for corner nibblers. It’s a wonderful story of grace, of his seeking the ordinary people to come, the formerly uninvited.
Sometimes the haying crew sits at our table. Sometimes our trucker friend. Sometimes neighbors. Sometimes one of my closest friends. But we are more informal than the picture shows.
Bruce knows people’s names much more than I do. I’m looking forward to that white stone!
How wonderful to reach out to Abby. Did she come to your Chosen get together? Oh do ask Abby to come for Christmas. Maybe see if Jason will come for dessert! What a kind thing to do. Keep us posted on how your friendship with her develops.
That whole trying to take away the name church, and change the names of the sanctuary to auditorium may backfire. There may be a hunger in people to go back to the more traditional liturgies of the church and Eucharist. But if that’s what your church feels will bring people in, that’s a good thing.
Thank you for coming back to comment!