Friday, November 07, 2008

The banquet

Today’s Reading: John 17:10b-11 (NIV)

10b [Jesus said,] “And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name the name You gave me so that they may be one as we are one.”

Good morning!

It was as if I had traveled to a place far away, as I sat last night, admiring the Greek culture and pure ambiance of the Vine Café, located within the educational wing of St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Belleville, Illinois. A large room had been transformed into a beautiful village restaurant, like one might imagine experiencing in Greece. I could hear the water crashing far below the village inn, overlooking the sea. The walls of the restaurant had been painted in a rough and textured, stucco design. Large pots with flowing flowers and greenery lined the perimeter of the dining hall. Grape vines were growing overhead between lattice fencing with tiny twinkle lights everywhere. It was as if we were sitting under the stars where all of heaven was displayed for our enjoyment. Large, round gathering tables were elegantly appointed and set for dinner. Welcoming eight to each table, I couldn’t help but notice the fine china and glass water goblets brimming with ice. Suddenly, I felt quite thirsty, and found myself looking forward to the meal that was being prepared.

Seventy-five of us gathered together last night. I knew a few of the faces, for I had seen them before. A wonderful thing about a gathering like this is that even as we’ve been surrounded by those whom we may not yet know, we remain secure in the presence of like-minded hearts. There were pastors and spouses and lay people who had come from various parts of Southern Illinois and the regional St. Louis area, to pray, fellowship, share a meal, and encourage each other in matters of faith. It was Good News for so many of us, especially as we gathered together on a night like this.

The food was spectacular! I must confess that at one point, I wondered whether I had somehow been ushered into that heavenly banquet that I have often read about in Scripture. Every detail to the meal had been thoughtfully and lovingly prepared. A small, clear plate adorned with field greens, walnuts and pears, complimented by homemade strawberry dressing, was served first. Hot rolls fresh from the oven and sweet almond butter completed the delightful, festive salad. We could have stopped there, but Hank, the master chef extraordinaire, had only gotten started with his culinary creations. Large buffet trays were filled with the finest foods from fall’s harvest. We feasted upon chicken Florentine, rice pilaf, squash casserole (a rich taste treat), and green peas adorned with tiny pearl onions. I was thinking that I might end up a diabetic coma right there at the table, but I didn’t care. It was as if I had come to the banqueting table, where His banner over me is love. The empty chair to my right was not empty at all, for I knew that my Lord was there.

The dessert was unlike any other I have ever tasted. I should have passed up the homemade apple dumpling with ice cream and caramel sauce, but my resolve to watch carbohydrates and sugar intake had somehow disappeared during the evening. I’ve paid a lot of money for meals in restaurants that didn’t begin to compare with this. I was awestruck when I realized that this dinner was a gift – a free gift for all who came to the feast.

Throughout the evening, the name of Jesus Christ was lifted high. He is our most welcomed and honored guest. Christ’s holy presence was felt through the extravagant generosity we had tasted in the evening meal. We listened and conversed with each other about the importance of keeping Christ first and foremost, not only in our daily lives, and within the life blood of our churches, for He is our life blood. By the end of the evening, there was a renewed sense of unity among us. We had come together as strangers, but left as friends. This is the meaning of true fellowship within the body of Christ. It is what Jesus prayed for on the night He asked His Father to make us one in Him.

Thank you, dear Jesus, for offering Your banqueting table to all who draw near to you in faith.

Bon a petit!

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO


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