ShePonders: Feasting

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“Feasting isn’t about super-abundance for select guests; it’s about enough for everyone.”

Twinkle lights are strung, shining everywhere I look. Glossy food magazines feature holiday tables bursting with roasted meats, savory sides and sweets galore. Discussions now turn to plans for the coming feast days–who will be around the table, what family recipes will be made, how will the celebration take shape this season?

As a host, I tend to make a long list of ingredients and a shorter list of guests. I want to ensure there’s an abundance of food to satisfy all the appetites around the table. I’ve grown up with the fear most of us fight when planning for the holiday–running out of anything. So I’ve learned to over-compensate, buying more to guarantee everyone will have their fill of food, drink, truffles and Burundian coffee. I’m imagining a buffet over-flowing with good food, plates piled high, everyone enjoying more than one dessert and emptying out the candy dish.

While reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, I came across this gem: “The opposite of scarcity is enough …” I usually think the opposite of scarcity is abundance … more … not fasting, but feasting. Yet I intuitively knew she was right. And while she wasn’t talking about meal preparations, I couldn’t shake the connection of this idea to my concept of feasting.

We read about food often in the biblical story–fruit in the Garden of Eden, the melons of Egypt, super-sized grapes in Canaan, milk and honey in the Promised Land, water into wine by Jesus’ own hand, His frequent meals with all manner of people and the anticipated marriage feast highlighted in Revelation. The images are plentiful. When I think of the final meal, the heavenly banquet, I see a table stretching into eternity brimming with copious amounts of the earth’s most prized bounty and delicacies.

But the more I reflect on the texts that have nourished me in recent years, a new pattern emerges. Feasting isn’t about super-abundance for select guests; it’s about enough for everyone.

In the desert trek through Sinai and toward the land of promise, God fed the Hebrews with manna. It was just enough for each person, each day with no leftovers. No one could stockpile manna and prepare a manna-themed feast, because hoarding wasn’t possible–the stuff rotted by morning. But each day God provided food for all, including quail at night and sweet water from a rock to quench their communal thirst. In answer to their question: Yes, God could spread a table in the wilderness.

Jesus took ordinary food, some bread and fish and fed thousands of hungry people on a Galilean hillside. Twice. He could stretch a single portion into a meal for many–with leftovers. But the leftover baskets seem beside the point, more of a theological statement really. What Mark reported was that in both instances, “all ate and were filled.” When Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives bread no one leaves hungry.

“Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” This is how Jesus instructed us to pray. Ask for today’s bread, but just enough for today. We aren’t to ask for more than our share. In my ear it echoes of manna, enough for each person, each day. But notice the chronology–we pray for things on earth to mirror things in heaven and that means enough for today. Think about that for a moment–in heaven there is enough for today.

Now remember what else Jesus said about heaven? According to John, He said that in His Father’s house there are many rooms. There’s room for everyone. I assume that Jesus meant there’s room for everyone, there’s a place at the table for everyone and food enough for all.

Maybe we need to adjust our vision of the heavenly meal. Maybe it’s not about an unending table with an abundance of food where we can eternally gorge ourselves. Maybe it’s just enough food for everyone–and that makes this a feast in the eyes of the Father. God looks around the table seeing the empty plates and chaffing dishes, hearing the full-bodied conversations and bursts of laughter like a symphony–and savors the bridal feast.

As I recalibrate my idea of that final feast, I’m also rethinking the celebrations I will host here on my little plot of earth. Instead of my long grocery list maybe I should consider a longer guest list (and more plates and flatware). Maybe seconds of roasted garlic mashed potatoes aren’t always necessary and running out of wine (or sparkling grape juice) shouldn’t be cause for stress. If everyone has a place to sit, maybe feasting has happened when I can look around at empty platters knowing all ate and were filled. When we’ve each had enough, we’ve truly feasted together.

But beyond my table is a hungry world. And they, too, need a place at the table. I want to join in offering the extravagance of enough, the elegance of equity, to everyone. Only then will we truly feast as God intended.

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