I recently went to Briarcrest Christian School to eat lunch with my seven-year-old grandson, Eero. I showed up at the school and realized I had never been in the elementary side of the school and, after signing in, had to ask where the cafeteria was. This was shocking to me, as I have spent much time over the past several years in all parts of Briarcrest because my last three children went to school there. I know where Middle School and High School places are because of this. I remember many times when I greeted Anne Rachael, Patrick, and Eliot there with a bag of Chick-fil-A.
This lunch marked a new era for me––my last son graduates from Briarcrest in less than a month and I suppose I will not darken that side of the school again, at least not for several years. But since I have grandchildren-a-plenty who go there, I am starting a new rhythm. My lunches in the future will not be with witty teenagers but young wild boys—my grandsons.
Anyway, Eero was beyond happy to see me and my sack of Chick-fil-A. I went into the lunch room, sat down, and spread before him a thing of wonder to a young hungry boy—a chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and lemonade. He was thrilled! He started taking out the lunch his mother had packed him and then looked up at me and said, “Look Pa, a feast!” Yes, a feast indeed!
Just down from us was a mother with one of those large cookie cakes; it was about two feet wide. I was eyeing it, wondering who the lucky children were who were going to get that. When they started cutting it and distributing it to the children in Eero’s class, Eero and his friend Jack (who was sitting with us) began to tell the lady, “Hey, we are in that class.” (They had to tell her several times to make sure they were noticed.) Finally, she came over to these two boys, sat a couple of huge pieces of cookie deliciousness in front of them and said, “There you go.” Both their eyes lit up, and Eero exclaimed, “Pa, the feast never ends!”
I laughed at the raw lust for life and sheer appreciation of such a commonplace occurrence. I was also appreciative of his ability to articulate what he was seeing and experiencing at such a young age. I know people my age that do not have eyes to see like this, or the capacity to be amazed at the simple pleasures of life.
After I was back in my truck and had sent texts to his mother and father, sharing and glorying in the profound utterances of their young son, I pondered more the words he uttered and how profoundly they resonate with the heart of God who created this whole world. God made this world a feast for his people! Alexander Schmemann, an Orthodox Priest, said this of the world that God had prepared for his first image bearers: “Man must eat in order to live; he must take the [products of the] world into his body and transform it [through digestion and absorption] into himself, into flesh and blood. He is indeed that which he eats, and the whole world is presented as one all-embracing banquet table for man. And this image of the banquet remains, throughout the whole Bible, the central image of life. It is the image of life at its creation and also the image of life at its end and fulfillment: ‘… that you eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom.’” (Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World)
You say, yes, but is that really true? The world is so broken, I am so broken; does the feast go on forever? When I turn to the New Testament, I must confess the first miracle of Jesus suggests this very thing. As I look at the whole scope of the miracles that Jesus did––healing the blind, the sick, and the lame, calming the troubled seas, feeding hungry people who had gathered to hear him preach, and even raising people from the dead––this one doesn’t seem to fit our Christian sensibilities. We immediately see the purpose of those miracles, the urgency of them and how they relate to the restoration of a twisted universe inhabited by twisted people. But turning water into wine––what is that all about?
Being Jesus’ first miracle, it has to be significant. If you were going to start a movement, you would do something that would be symbolic of what you are all about. In other words, it is not a thing on the periphery, something which has no meaning. No, it abounds with meaning! In this first miracle, Jesus is showing us his (and our) relationship with the world of culture and created things. This story is the “fleshing out” of what the apostle John said of Jesus in chapter one, “through him (Jesus) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Jesus is showing us he is Lord of creation and that what he created was good.
In turning water to wine at a wedding feast, Jesus’ purpose, we might say, was to bring into a broken world an all embracing joy! What this means for us is huge. It means that Christians ought to be the most joyful of people. We ought to revel in the simplest of pleasures like good food and drink. We ought to never apologize for the rapturous delights we find in enjoying good music and art. We should never feel guilty about the abandonment we fill when we see a glorious sunset. Nor should we think it unspiritual when we are treated on those rare occasions to the finest that creation has to offer, enjoyed in the community of dear friends and family. Rather, if we really believe that the end of this sinful age and the beginning of the New Heavens and New Earth began with a banquet, we should “out party” the unbelieving world. Christians are the only ones who have the resources to truly enjoy all that God has created without it becoming an addiction or an idol.
If you are still skeptical, ponder this. We are currently going through the appearances of the resurrected Christ on Sunday mornings. Josh came up to me on Tuesday and said, “You know what the one constant is between what you preached on Sunday about the Road to Emmaus and the text in John about Jesus’ first meeting with his disciples?” I confessed I didn’t, and he said, “In both texts it was in the sharing of a meal that Jesus revealed himself!”
Yes, my young seven-year-old philosopher-grandson Eero, you are right. “The Feast never ends.” But you will spend the rest of your life fighting to see that that is true. May God give you eyes to see.