Each year as we prepare the Annual Church Conference booklet, we strive to create a document that reflects the DNA of Old Fort Baptist Church. The desire for this booklet is that it be one that allows a glimpse into the happenings of our church family, inviting participation in the works God is doing in and through our church. With this idea in mind, this year the front cover intentionally conveys a very specific concept that our church strives to accomplish – inviting people to the family feast.
When Covid slowed the world, and the church in 2020, it provided opportunity for reflection. One noticeable observation showed an unfortunate realization – our church was operating more like an apartment complex than a family. Consider this, an apartment complex regularly strives to find activities for residents to enjoy and will provide flyers and other means of promotions to encourage individual family units to gather with strangers and participate in a community growing event. Imagine the community cookout by the pool. There’s no need to RSVP, and often the decision to attend won’t be made until the day of the event. Many factors go into that decision – i.e., the weather, other activities that are more enticing, whether or not friends will attend, what’s on the menu. Because the event primarily consists of strangers, the appeal of the event may even be forgotten. Sadly, this illustration seems all too familiar when dealing with church events.
Now consider gathering with family last week for Thanksgiving. Everyone knew Thanksgiving was approaching and many did not need to sit around waiting for an invitation to wherever they ended up enjoying their Thanksgiving meal. With family, there’s no need to be invited, attendance is expected and anticipated. As families gathered to enjoy Thanksgiving, a feast fit for a king was enjoyed, family connected through fellowship where there was laughter, tears, tension, heartache, reflection, reconciliation…a person was able to gather in a safe space to enjoy the fullness of what it means to be human. And when families gathered, it didn’t matter where a person sat because each person at the meal was family.
It is with this concept that we find the Scriptures pointing to help the Christian understand heaven. In Isaiah 25, the author writes, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And [the Lord] will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth” (Isaiah 25:6–8). Tim Chester explains, “No one need ever leave this feast. In Isaiah 25 death itself is on the menu — God himself will swallow it up. So, this is a perpetual feast” (Chester, A Meal With Jesus, 59).
Jesus spoke in Parables of the Great Banquet:
“Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” – Luke 14:15
“And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” – Luke 22:29–30
“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God” – Luke 13:29–30; Matthew 8:11
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut” – Matthew 25:10
The book of Revelation describes this meal in Revelation 19:
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given to her to wear. ’
Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’” (Revelation 19:6–9)
In our future is a seat at the Great Banquet with Christians from all nations. Don’t you find it a bit ironic that we find it so easy to separate ourselves from those we will share the Feast in eternity? When comparing the gathering together of the family at Old Fort Baptist Church, I challenge each of you to consider committing to treating Old Fort Baptist Church as your family. In 2022, commit to finding your place at the table, gathering with the family when family functions are happening. Old Fort does not want to be a landlord where people rent a room, Old Fort desires to be family where we experience a glimpse of the Great Banquet that is to come!!
Table photo: Author Unknown, Licensed under CC BY