Monday, September 30, 2013

A Dinner Invitation

What if you opened your mailbox and along with the bills and flyers was an old-fashioned embossed envelope. You pull out a note that says simply, "You are called to the wedding supper of the Lamb."

I got to thinking about this scenario because of the 23rd Psalm. One morning when we recited the poem, my older daughter pointed out something I had never seen before. Although David spends the first half of the Psalm comparing himself to a sheep, he spends the second half comparing himself to a guest.  

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

David pictures himself nearly vanquished in the valley of the shadow of death, his enemies crowded round.  God, however, is at home, in his own house, getting dinner ready. Imagine the astonishment and envy of those enemies. Instead of destroying David, they have to watch while God sets a table for him.  When he comes in, God pours oil over his head in welcome.  When he sits down at the table, his cup is filled to the brim and over by his gracious host.    God doesn't offer David one short meal. Rather David is invited to dwell in the house of the Lord with all its abundant blessings forever.  

I want to be David.  I want to be invited to come to God's house for dinner.  In Matthew 22 Jesus offered just such a dinner invitation.  Once, he said, there was a king who hosted his son's wedding.  He sent out servants to invite the wealthy and the nobles (in Jesus's parable this is representative of either the Jewish ruling class or perhaps the Jews of that day altogether).  Some don't want to come, others snatch up the king's messengers to abuse or even murder them.  After exacting revenge, the disgusted king sends messengers out to beat the bushes, gathering everyone they found to come to the wedding supper (in this case representing both Jew and Gentile, noble and common, "righteous" and unrighteous gathered together into the Kingdom).  Luke with his typical sensitivity towards social justice tells a similar parable where the invited are too busy come so the wealthy landowner calls in the "poor and crippled and blind and lame." (Luke 14:16-24).   

Parables aside, Jesus was once a host himself.  To be fair we more often see him in the position of guest, perhaps because he was homeless.  Nonetheless at his last Passover supper, he stood in the rented room as his disciples' host. In the position of the lowest member of a host's household, he washed the disciples' feet.  At the head of their table, in the place of the host himself, he waited till everyone was reclining and told them this: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it, until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."  (Luke 22: 15-16).

The New Testament uses this phrase, "The kingdom of God" in a remarkably three-dimensional way.  Jesus sometimes uses it to describe the people following him right then but here he has a future fulfillment in view (Mark 1:15, John 4:23). To understand we have to consider the two related meanings of the phrase.  

Sometimes the Kingdom of God represents the living church.  We are now citizens of that great kingdom (Revelation 1:6).  So in communion we gather again at the table and receive from our host.  This time we pray, and the bread we receive is not from his hand but from his body, the wine not from his cup but from his side.  When we are there we are communing with him: guests at the fulfilled Passover once again hosted by the Savior (1 Corinthians 11).

Finally in the last incarnation of the Kingdom of God the resurrected saints will live eternally as the subjects of the King of all Kings.   The Passover is fulfilled most perfectly in the wedding supper of the Lamb.  John pictures it beautifully in Revelation 19:7-9. 

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."

The King, who once called all those lame, poor, unrighteous, unworthy people to come to his son's wedding, is calling still.  On that final day, when the church comes in all her glory arrayed as bride, we will be called to dinner.  We'll sit at God's table, to the admiration and envy of every person who hated his name.  He'll fill our cup again and again.  We'll rejoice and give Him glory dressed in the good we've done in the world. And we'll be blessed to be guests of God. 
Helene
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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