Monday, December 31, 2012

Foretaste of the Feast to Come: Thoughts on New Year's Eve

The text is Luke 12:35-40, the Parable of the Serving Master. And it's had me thinking about the Lord's Supper and about the nature of it as a foretaste of the heavenly feast.
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
The servants know that He's coming back, but they don't know when. They are to be ready to receive Him when He comes back. The master withdraws from the wedding banquet. The wedding banquet isn't over. It's still going on. But He withdraws from it. He takes a short leave. Why? He withdraws in order to come and serve us.

From what we know, the expectation is that when the master returns, taking leave, he comes with a doggie bag. He comes having sneaked out some of the goodies from the feast for His faithful servants to munch on while they wait for the Wedding Banquet to end and Him to return for good. And so the parable of the master serving His servants brings into focus the nature of our waiting for Him. That He takes leave from the Wedding Banquet to serve us while we wait for Him to return for good. In other words, He returns to give us something from the Feast to tide us over.

And so our Lord comes in the Divine Service. He takes leave, he withdraws from the Wedding Banquet, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom that will have not end, to return with some of the goodies of that feast to tide us over until He shall come at last to take us to Himself in heaven. And so He comes to in His Body and Blood to serve us with His Body and Blood. And while we do not know the day or the hour of His final return. We do know the day and the hour of His coming to serve us. Be ready to receive Him when He comes in this way so that you may be served. That by it your hunger will be sated, that you'll be nourished while you wait. But like all good appetizers and hors d'oeuvres, that which staves off our hunger also creates an appetite for more. It stimulates and whets your appetite while at the same time arresting the growls of your bellies and light-headedness so that your wait is not burdensome but enjoyed.

This is, I think, is what the church means by foretaste. He brings us the hors d'oeuvres of the heavenly banquet, and He serves us while we wait. Perhaps, too, this is the manna in the wilderness. That which was flakey white, corse like coriander seed, and tasted sweet like honey was for the Israelite wandering in the wilderness a foretaste of the Promised Land that would flow with milk and honey (Exod 3:8; 16:31). They despised that as worthless food. And thus also did they eventually despise the Promised Land. May it not be so among us also. Lord save and deliver us.

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