Feasting with God...
There is a theme that I find myself coming back to over and over again: feasting with God. As a metaphor for my spirituality, the feast is rich and inspirational for it is grounded in the reality of hospitality, abundance, joy and sharing. As a spiritual discipline, the feast helps me practice using my resources and time in ways that nourish. And as a way of talking about what is most important to me personally and socially, the image of the feast is almost perfect.
+ a feast is costly - it requires sharing my time, money and space
+ a feast is beautiful - it demands a well-set table, a clean house and tender care
+ a feast is intentional - there can be spontaneous gatherings but a feast takes planning
+ a feast is about community - anything less is self-centered
+ and a feast is sensual - it invites calling forth our hearts and bodies along with our mind
A feast treats people as honored guests, practices radical hospitality and gives us all a chance to be our best selves just as God intended. In one of my favorite books, Feasting with God: Adventures in Table Spirituality, Holly Whitcomb speaks of compassion as cum (with) panis (bread.) She makes the case that table fellowship is not only where Jesus did a great deal of healing, but it is also where we learn to practice sabbath rest most authentically as our hungers are satisfied:
Whenever we come together for table celebrations, our grace must openly be along the lines of, "for those without food, grant bread; for those with bread, grant hunger for justice." And then we must go forth to proclaim justice and perform works that serve it. But hunger for justice does not begin with deprivations, let alone with guilt. Hunger for justice begins with gratitude, by acknowledging our minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour thanks for the gifts of the earth that become the food on our tables... moreover, it is the act of thanksgiving - Eucharist - that kindles the realization that the earth-gifts meant for all do not reach all. Goodness exists, yes, but the world is not wholly good.
For the past 10 years, feasting with God has been at the heart of how I understand both my life and my ministry. Curiously, however, it was not until I recently reread Douglas John Hall that I realized that while table fellowship is essential to the spirituality of Jesus, many of us go out of our way to avoid coming to the table. The gospel of Luke reminds us that many times Jesus invited folk to the table but we had countless excuses:
Jesus said to another, "Follow me." He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral." Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's kingdom!" Then another said, "I'm ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home." Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."
So maybe it is time to revisit some of the table fellowship stories as spring slowly becomes summer in the Berkshires. I started our ministry of renewal with a conversation into feasting with God almost two years ago - and maybe the Spirit is calling us to look at Eucharist, gratitude and table fellowship again after Pentecost. We shall see...