A Family Feast

A Children's Sunday Sermonette
by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, June 1, 1997


Isaiah 25:6-9 The Lord's Feast
Luke 14:15-24 The Parable of the Great Banquet

Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God. (Matthew 14:15)

Today is one of our favorite Sundays, not because church is almost over for the year, but because we celebrate our Sunday School, our children, and our church family. It is wonderful to have the children and parents of the Sunday School here in church with us today. Some of us go to Sunday School, some of us go to church, and some of us go to both. Today we are all together as a family.

I would like to spend a few minutes exploring with you the meaning of the spiritual feast of our church family that we are celebrating today, and perhaps leave you with a thought or two about extending our invitation wider than may have occurred to us before.

Both the Lord's feast in our reading from Isaiah and the great banquet that the Sunday School enacted for us today are the same feast. It is the feast of the kingdom of God that our Lord Jesus is inviting each one of us to enjoy.

We can think of ourselves as guests invited to the feast. As Christians and as Swedenborgians, we have a rich supper of spiritual truth laid out for us in the Bible and in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. These teachings give us practical help in our daily lives--such as the teaching that whatever we would like someone else to do for us, that is just what we should be doing for them. This simple teaching, given to us by Jesus, would completely transform our communities and our world if everyone followed it each day.

Our Christian and Swedenborgian teachings also satisfy our deepest longing for understanding and meaning in life; teachings such as that God's humanity consists of love and understanding, and that when we learn about God and practice what we learn because we love each other, then we are at the same time the most fully human beings we can be, and also the closest to God and to each other. Yes, a wonderful feast of spiritual food and drink is laid out for us, and the invitation has been delivered into our hand.

However, we shouldn't be too contented with ourselves. It was the invited guests who made excuses! We may not be buying fields or oxen, and only a couple of us are getting married soon, but we have other excuses that correspond. "I can figure things out for myself, thank you. I don't need help from the church or the Bible." "I'm much too busy to spend time learning about God. I've got work to do!" Or we may not make any excuse at all. We may be perfectly satisfied with the way our life is right now, and have no intention of being challenged by religion to change ourselves for the better.

When we think the church is ours any time we get around to it, we forget that the feast is happening now, not when we get around to it. We think we will get around to it some day, but "some day" never quite arrives, because our habits have been formed.

It is when we recognize that we ourselves--yes, even those of us who go to church every week--are the crippled, the blind, and the lame; when we realize that we ourselves have bad habits that need correcting--habits by which we unthinkingly and sometimes uncaringly hurt the people around us; and especially when we realize that we need help from the Lord to correct those bad habits--those "sins," in Biblical terms; then our attitude toward the church, the Bible, and the Lord changes completely.

When we see ourselves as spiritually crippled, blind, lame, and in need of the Lord's healing, we will never think of making excuses to avoid satisfying our need for spiritual nourishment. Reading the Bible, coming to church, and learning about the Lord will no longer be something we endure because we know we should--or a reason to make excuses. Instead, we will hunger and thirst for the insight into our painful predicament that only religion can satisfy. We will long to feel the Lord's love flowing into our lives, healing the emptiness and brokenness that we so often feel in our hearts and souls.

When we are ready to face that emptiness and brokenness; when we stop trying, like the Pharisees, to put on a show of already being complete in ourselves--spiritually, emotionally, and in our relationships with others; when we recognize that we are broken people in need of the Lord's healing; then we can approach the Lord's feast with joy and gratitude, and savor the rich spiritual blessings that we find there.

We can also recognize that the Lord's feast is a family feast. The invitation extends to all of the Lord's children--even to the Pharisees, if they (or is that we?) will only accept the invitation. When we come to the Lord's feast, we will find ourselves sitting down with many different people--people that may seem to have been rounded up randomly from the highways and byways of life. Yet we will find that we share a bond with these people: our acceptance of the Lord's love into our lives in a very personal way.

I started by talking about our church family being all together, and I would like to end with a challenge to all of us in this church family. Can we as a church family follow the example of the one who called the great banquet? We know that the one who calls the banquet is the Lord. When all the "right" people--the invited guests--make excuses instead of coming to the feast, the Lord's response is to call the "wrong" people--the people who we may not want to rub elbows with because we might get our elbows dirty.

Can we as a church do the same thing? Can we open up our eyes and our hearts, and look, not for people that we think would be an asset to our church, but for people who are in emotional and spiritual need? Can we extend our invitation to people who may be down and perhaps even out? Can we open our doors and our hearts to them, and help to bring them the healing and the joy of sharing in the Lord's free gift of life and love?

Today we celebrate our church family, children and adults together. As we celebrate, the Lord is calling us to open our hearts wider, and to invite people who may be overlooked or abandoned into our circle--into the Lord's feast of friendship and love.

Painting  entitled "Little Red" is  ©Tom Sierak 
and used with his permission by Moon And Back Graphics to construct this set

Music: In the Garden
© 1999 Bruce De Boer