A Family Feast
Completely exhausted. Zonked. Wiped out. We all know the feeling—the inevitable result of several days of staying up late, snarfing Pixie Sticks, chugging Mountain Dew, and generally having a good time with friends. The exhaustion isn’t fun, but it fades quickly, while the wonderfully embarrassing memories remain.
In June 2004, a group of my friends and their families from all over the country gathered in my hometown, South Bend, Indiana, for several days of fun. This group was mostly teens who know each other from the Higher Things e-mail list, “Mouth House,” and the HT “Making Waves” and “In His Face” conferences. In fact, our gathering was, in some ways, modeled after these conferences.
The fun started on a Friday evening, with supper together followed by the Order of Vespers, catechesis, and several hours of caffeine and sugar-induced hyper-activity. The next day began with Morning Prayer, followed by lunch, then several hours at a local park, and supper together once again. The day concluded with the Word of God and prayer in the Order of Vespers. On Sunday we attended the Divine Service at Emmaus (our church in South Bend), had lunch together, and then said our tough good-byes.
There were approximately 70 people in all gathered for the weekend. It was a joy to see my own family getting along so well with my friends and their families. By Sunday afternoon, all 70 of us were like one “big happy family.” Through worship, catechesis, playing games, lots of talking and sharing meals together, new friendships were formed and old ones strengthened.
As you may be able to guess, the weekend basically revolved around the one thing that should really be the focus of our entire lives as Christians! Food.
Yes, that’s right—food. Whenever you have a large group of people, food is almost always part of the occasion. Everybody has to eat to keep their earthly bodies alive. Besides, if there is a lull in activity you can start a conversation about the food...or, if need be, there’s always that old standby—FOOD FIGHT!!! But now I’m getting off track.
The food that was the focus of our weekend gathering was actually not the sort you might throw across the room with hopes of hitting your brother in the face. The food I’m talking about is the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He gives to us Christians to eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins. With such heavenly food as this, our Savior comes to us under simple bread and wine. And by the eating and drinking of this food, according to His Word, we really are, in fact, one big family, along with our fellow Christians all over the country—indeed, in all times and places.
Our Father in heaven is with us always. He watches us giggle and play with our friends. He’s there, too, when we’re breaking the Eighth Commandment by gossiping about our friends. Whenever we break any of the commandments in thought, word and deed, He knows. We are rightly ashamed and deathly afraid when God’s law confronts us. We know from His Word, as we have been taught from the catechism, that we surely deserve nothing but eternal death and damnation as the wages of our sin.
Amazingly, and by His grace alone, our heavenly Father loves us and has mercy on us, disobedient children though we are. He sent His Son Jesus to die for us! And Jesus, out of love, voluntarily sacrificed Himself so that we could be united with Him,“through Baptism into [His] death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). From His cross, He likewise feeds us with the fruits of His sacrifice, for the free and full forgiveness of our sins, for life and salvation in Him.Through such Word and Sacraments, all Christians are given this new life and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Consequently, we need no longer fear death or damnation, for we are fed with a life-giving food in the Lord’s Supper.
Our bodies may be fatigued from too many nights of partying, and it may require several long naps to rid our bodies of the exhaustion. However, the Lord gives us new life and refreshes our souls with one small wafer of bread, a sip of wine, and a few simple, but powerful words: “This is My Body,” “This is My Blood,” “for you.”
This is a “foretaste of the feast to come,” when our souls will forever flourish with saints from all times and places in Heaven! There we will never feel exhaustion, but only joy and peace with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and our “big happy family.”
It was toward that meal that our weekend together was moving, and from that meal that we returned to our respective homes, as individuals and families, but all of us bound together as one body in the body and blood of Christ Jesus. From that never-ending feast there won’t ever be any more tough good-byes; for we will be together forever!