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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who will be together in the glory and plenty of eternity in Christ shouted out … AMEN
Our readings today are about eschatology, these are eschatological studies, don’t try saying that at home, I’m a trained professional. I’m thinking in terms of the ultimate Thanksgiving. You think you need a big kitchen table at your house for Thanksgiving? Think about how big God’s table is going to be that He will need for His promised time of life in the Resurrection. “And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:13)
If you’ve ever been to Quincy Market in Boston, there is a restaurant named Durgin Park. This restaurant goes back to the turn of the 20th century and if you’re in the right parts, well you can tell how old it is. They have great seafood, they have great prime rib, lots of other dishes, but here’s the deal, it’s served to you family style. You don’t have little tables all around, you have big long tables and you just grab your seat. There’s no maitre di, no pretense, you get a menu on the way, grab your seat, order your food and while you wait get to know the people all around you. It’s one reason you go there. It’s not for the service, the wait staff seems to make it their mission to see how uncomfortable they can get you, the food is great, like I said the atmosphere is early 20th century, but it’s great food, in an “interesting” facility. There are plenty of other people around you and you all know you’re there to meet people and you do, very little in terms of being bashful. Get a great dinner, stay for awhile, you have to because there’s so much to eat, and enjoy the impromptu goings on.
This is what it will be like at the dinner that God is promising Ezekiel. Being invited to the White House for dinner is a series of hoops and rolls, waiting, anticipating. How will the feast that God is talking about happen? “I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out… I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness…” You won’t be expecting anything and then you will be in His presence and He is going to give you the ultimate offer you can’t refuse. Durgin Park’s food is good, but how much better, how much more, how much more fun will the feast, the banquet at the end of time be? The ultimate open menu; You want New England Lobster, here it is. Cheasapeake Bay crab cakes? The best you’ve ever tasted. Chicago prime rib? New York City pizza, … what, huh? Really pizza, at the marriage feast of the Lamb? OK, you got it.
He promises us that we will be with people scattered from all places. Places that for a day were cloudy and dark, that’s where we are right now. Life…, in terms of eternity? It’s a day, it’s over before you know it, life is not reality, the resurrection is reality, this is eternal reality. You may be in those dark, cloudy places where you know you don’t belong. Not because you’re good or too smart or even unworthy, you’re there because He took you up, the Father saw His Son in you. Jesus came to you and said “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt 25: 34). You will be there for one reason and one reason only and it has nothing to do with anything you did, it’s all about how you were saved by Christ. You were saved in baptism, you became that new creation in baptism, you were faithfully led by the Holy Spirit to worship, to take the Body and Blood of Jesus. Those small bits of bread and wine, His Body and Blood, are only a reminder of the immensity of what you will inherit, of what the Father will bring you to “…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
In our passages today God is showing you the ultimate Thanksgiving Day feast. You didn’t do a thing for it. Moms, you aren’t going to cook, you aren’t going to serve, you aren’t going to clean up, you will be there with Christians from around the world, rejoicing with each other that you are saved, that you are eternally going to enjoy all the great gifts of the resurrection, the new world, the world the way it was intended to be, life and life more abundant. Abundance you can never imagine in the here and now.
A friend of mine had relatives in Lithuania, his parents were from Lithuania. My friend took them to the grocery store and when they got inside and saw all the marvelous food just waiting to be taken off the shelf and put in the shopping cart they were so overwhelmed some of them actually started to cry. That will be us when we’ve been rescued from the clouds and darkness of the world and brought to the marriage-feast.
I know for many people this may not sound initially inviting, you will be sitting with people that you may have never met, Christian brothers and sister, and they will be from all the places that God scattered them in life. Many will probably have gone through difficult, even serious trials, some life or death trials because of their faith. But they won’t talk about the unpleasantness of those trials, they will talk about how thankful they are that even through difficult times God provided, God gave them the hope and promise of being provided for. They will be celebrating their deliverance, we all will be, we all will be celebrating how faithful God was to provide in life, even in those times of pain and loss. The pain and loss of earth will be a dim memory, even if it was only a few hours ago for some.
The idea of sitting with a bunch of what you might think of as strangers might seem a little uncomfortable to some of you, but if you’ve ever had to do a lot of traveling, which often involves being in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people, meals are often a chore and often uncomfortable. That’s why Durgin Park is appealing to many who are traveling to Boston, they will be with a bunch of other people who want to be with a friendly group and I can assure you I’ve never had a bad dinner there. But in the resurrection we will be with people who are true brothers and sisters in a world that will dazzle even us who think that we’re hard to impress. We will be like the relatives from Lithuania, overwhelmed in delight at what God has provided for us and for those whose earthly life might have been in material poverty and need.
In his book “Heaven” Randy Alcorn writes: “We know that people in Heaven have lots of feelings – all good ones. We’re told of banquets, feasts and singing. People will laugh there (Luke 6:21) Feasting, singing and rejoicing involve feelings.”1
Alcorn quotes Seneca the Roman philosopher who said, “The day thou fearest as the last is the birthday of eternity.”2
I have no doubt that you will enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends, it will be a time of pleasure and belonging. But it will be a snack compared to what you will be given when you are picked by the Lord and brought to that banquet, eternally in the presence of the crucified and Risen Savior, our Redeemer. It won’t be a feast of just food and companions, it will be a feast of life and life more abundant, a world that will be just waiting for you to enjoy it’s splendour, its activity and its vastness, a world where even in eternity you will not be able to experience everything it has to offer. God is an infinite God, He delights in the pleasure of His children. To be sure, the world is often not very delightful, if not downright troubling. But the world that God brings us to will be a continuous celebration of life, eternal life to His glory, forever and ever …
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.
1Randy Alcorn Heaven p 284
2Ibid p xvii