+ Lectionary 28 A (Proper 23)
TEXT: Isaiah 25:1-9
DATE: October 12, 2014
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas
I suspect that
when most of us think
of a description or vision of heaven –
or the end time, the eschaton,
the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God,
whatever you want to call it –
we are inclined to think of one of two images.
The first image we probably have
is some kind of cloudy existence up in the sky.
You know: angels, wings, harps, and fluffy clouds.
That’s not from the Bible, though.
It owes its roots to Dante Aligheri
and his 14th century work, The Divine Comedy,
along with painters especially of the Renaissance,
from Botticelli to Michelangelo.
The other image is of the holy city, the new Jerusalem,
with streets of gold and gates of pearl.
That’s the one that features St. Peter guarding the gates
in all those jokes you hear.
This is a Biblical vision and we get it from Revelation.
But Revelation isn’t the only place
we get a description of heaven and the end time
in the Bible.
There are other visions of the fulfillment of time
in the prophets, like Joel, Amos and Zechariah,
in Daniel and the Psalms, too.
And there are other visions in the New Testament, too.
2 Thessalonians, 2 Peter, and the gospels
all have their own versions.
And in these other stories and accounts of the Bible,
the reign of God in the end time
is described in lots of different ways:
as life in the bosom of Abraham,
or a peaceable kingdom where hunter and prey,
grazers and carnivores live together.
Or, Jesus taking his throne in the temple of God.
Or rivers of water flowing in the desert,
hills flowing with milk
and mountains dripping with sweet wine.
Or fountains flowing from the house of the Lord
and the tree of life and healing
growing along the banks of its river.
These are some of the other Biblical images.
And then, there is this vision
from the book of Isaiah – our first reading.
A vision of a feast spread out on the mountain of the Lord,
and God wiping tears from the cheeks of the sorrowful
and swallowing up death forever.
This is a feast of abundance and the richest fare –
a feast of the best food, choicest meats, clearest wines –
the kinds of things
we should really limit in this earthly life
for the sake of our cholesterol and blood pressure.
These things were very rare treats for the ancient people,
reserved for the most important dinner occasions.
This is a vision of a heavenly banquet
provided by God for all people,
who gather together from the ends of the earth
reconciled to one another,
dining together in communion and wholeness,
a meal of joy and celebration.
But a feast not only provided by God,
as if God footed the bill,
but a feast of all people,
gathered in the full presence of God, with God,
reconciled and in communion
not only with one another,
but with God, too.
And there on the mountain of the Lord,
God provides refuge to the poor and needy,
sheltering and shading them from the storms and the heat.
And in a tender gesture of care,
God, himself, wipes the tears of sorrow
from the cheeks of all people.
And in a final act of victory for abundant wholeness and life,
God lifts the veil that shrouds our human existence –
sorrow and loss, suffering and pain,
grief and want, anxiety and death itself –
God lifts that veil,
and eliminates the cause of those tears
by swallowing up death forever.
God brings to completion
the promise of full communion
with God and with one another,
unites us around his table of abundance and grace,
heals, restores, and brings peace and joy
to all gathered there,
and finally ends the power of death
by swallowing it forever.
That is another vision of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom,
the eschaton, the end of all things, heaven.
And the thing about this particular vision
is that in a small way,
for a moment of our time,
in the liturgy of the church for us today,
it all becomes real for us here and now.
Even if just for a moment,
God does all those things for us here and now
in this feast of love.
When we gather around this table
to share a simple piece of bread
and a little sip from the cup of salvation,
we also share in that vision of heaven
in its feast of abundance and rich fare.
This meal is a foretaste of that heavenly banquet
at the end of time.
Even if just for a moment.
This heavenly vision
of the feast on the mountain of the Lord
where God wipes tears and swallows death
is the banquet Jesus calls us to now
when he gathers us around his table of grace
and unites us with one another, and with himself.
we receive the power of wholeness and life,
reconciliation, communion, and forgiveness,
healing, peace, and joy.
The veil is lifted,
and we are given a vision of his final defeat for us
of sorrow, suffering and even death.
Even if just for a moment.
And that, as you know,
is just one example
of how God richly and abundantly provides for us
In every little way, throughout our day.
For every moment.
The plentiful harvest we celebrate today
is also one of those examples
of God’s richest food, intimate care, and prodigal grace
poured out on us.
But God provides for us,
not just in the abundance of food and nourishment,
fertile land and teeming seas,
verdant forests and plentiful harvests.
God provides for us in other ways, too.
God also lavishes us with abundance
in his love and healing,
his community and service,
his forgiveness and listening ear,
his mercy and justice and grace.
All of these, and so much more,
are evidence of the bounty and abundance
God lavishes on us
so that we can enjoy the bounty of God for us.
And more importantly,
share that bounty with his whole creation –
the land and seas,
the environment and mostly, his people – all people.
All that comes to us
in the bread of life and cup of blessing,
the daily bounty of God for us,
the foretaste of that heavenly banquet
of the richest food
and the most tender and intimate love and healing
given and shed for you
for forgiveness, and love, and joy, and life.
Taste and see that The Lord is good.
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