Let me speak of feasts I have eaten. I can recall most of my life through the prism of food made, served and shared. I have an early memory of sitting in the kitchen of our Vancouver home after trick or treating as a little boy and eating a hot dog and drinking hot chocolate on a cool Halloween evening, knowing that all was right with the world, with my mother beside me and a bag of candy at my feet. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter were spent at my Grandma and Grandpa's home, where we ate turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and wurst bubbat. What is wurst bubbat you might ask? Some sort of food the Mennonites picked up in Germany, Prussia, Ukraine or Russia, but really it is a taste of heaven. You line a pan with bacon and then fill that pan with a raisin studded sweet yeast dough which you let rise in the pan. After it has risen, you cut a double smoked Mennonite farmer sausage into rounds and press them into the dough. You let it rise again and then bake it for 45 to 60 minutes. You cut it into squares and, if memory serves me correctly, Grandpa, Dad, and the Uncles fight over the corner pieces, which are doubly succulent, crisp and delicious, the bacon turning the bottom and sides into a crunchy crust, after which you bite into soft, warm bread filled with smoky sausage. But I could tell you, too, of the meals eaten with friends and family all over the world, deep fried zucchini flowers in Rome, lahmacun - crisp Turkish pizza - in Izmir, the best bread, sausages and beer in Germany, and the squash soup in my own kitchen, made with Triamble squash grown in the backyard. With friends and family, all meals, accompanied with good wine, cider, or whatever is your drink of choice, can become a feast in which time temporarily goes on hiatus as you revel in the goodness of creation.
The prophet Isaiah points to that eschatological future in which every meal is indeed a feast without end, in which every dish is the choicest, every wine the best, and, what is more, it is a meal shared with all people. This, perhaps, is the most striking aspect of this passage from Isaiah 25:6-10, the delicious manner in which the prophet speaks of heaven as drawing away that which divided us from one another:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
This is the feast, Jesus says, to which all were invited, but which some turn away from, due to other business, worldly concerns, regrets and worries (Matthew 22:1-14). It seems hard to imagine that we would turn down the invitation, but in our own world, driven by fast food, purchased while in a car, maybe eaten while in that car, or at a desk alone, is it not easier now than ever before to think that we would put other things against sitting down with friends and family and sharing a good meal, that we would refuse an invitation in order to attend to work and business?
Usually, I try to guard against rampant biblical literalism, but I am rather insistent on it when it comes to heaven: I am preparing for a real feast of choice foods and well-aged wines. In order to enjoy it, we need to be prepared to taste it; when we participate in the Eucharist and when we sit down with friends to share a meal in this world, however humble, we are getting ready for the feast without end. Savor and enjoy each meal with those you love while you prepare for the feast without end with friends and family whose names you do not yet know. You will have plenty of time to get to know them, given that you will be sharing with them "a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines" forever. I'm getting hungry not for a taste of heaven but for the whole meal.
John W. Martens
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