The Great Promised Feast
When I was a young woman, I saw a film called Longtime Companion. The movie chronicled the lives of several gay men during the AIDS epidemic.
What I remember about the movie was the final scene It was a dream sequence, a vision of a party on the beach, just like the characters used to have.
As the main character approached the party, he saw all the friends he had lost to the disease. Everyone was there, like a big reunion. They greeted him with cheers and hugs, a welcome home.
By 1989 when this film was produced, the AIDS epidemic had ravaged the gay community. Beyond the pain of being disowned from family, They endured the lack of effective treatment, the loss of whole friend groups, and hysteria and prejudice against anyone with the disease. Their ordeal however faded away in this last scene of the movie, and was replaced by the hope That the connections of love forged in this life persisted beyond the boundary of death, And that there’s a big party already in progress that can be accessed anytime.
As the scene unfolded before me, I recognized it: The Great Promised Feast.
I had heard about The Great Promised Feast in church.
In the eucharistic prayer, to be exact.
Therefore, O God, with this bread and cup
we remember the life our Lord offered for us.
And, believing the witness of his resurrection,
we await his coming in power
to share with us the great and promised feast.
I hadn’t thought about the Great Promised Feast until that moment, though I’d heard it in worship every week. Deep within me there was a desire, a need for a whole and mended universe When I saw all the beloved gathered on the beach, I suddenly understood what we are praying for:
A place beyond separation and sadness,
where our losses and vain attempts would be gathered up and healed
A place where wrongs would be made right and community restored-- that we would be with God.
The vision of the Great Promised Feast comes from scripture
The OT prophets talked about it:
Isaiah boldly proclaimed from exile:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make a feast for all peoples...
He will swallow up death forever...[and] will wipe away the tears from all faces.
The psalmist sings,
You spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
And at the end of the bible, John of Patmos picks up the theme in the book of Revelation, Which we read throughout the Easter season.
John speaks the vision to a people who had come through a great ordeal
Persecuted for their faith, John’s community had been disowned, jailed, even killed.
Despite the chaos in the lives of his community,
John paints a picture of heavenly celebration
Where people of every tribe and nation gather before Christ the Lamb.
It is a great multitude, more than you can count, and the people are singing!
It’s a vision of the end of time, the full arc of salvation—but since God is outside of time, it’s happening now.
It’s a party already in progress, the feast of victory.
I’d like to pause to comment on the role of imagination in spiritual life.
God can and does do more than we can ask or imagine.
And at the same time, our efforts are often limited by what we can envision
Scripture constantly nudges us to open our imagination to something bigger
To get in line with God’s thoughts and ways, which are not generally ours.
So with that in mind, I would like to ask you to Close your eyes and imagine
your version of the Great Promised Feast.
Maybe it is a party at the beach
Maybe it is grandma’s thanksgiving table
Maybe it is a rock concert and the whole coliseum singing.
Who is there for you?
Who welcomes you with a big bear hug?
Who is there who surprises you?
What do you see? What is happening?
How do you feel being a part of this great multitude?
Every week in Easter we join the song of this party already in progress
The text of Our hymn of praise, This is the Feast, comes from the book of Revelation
—verse three comes from our reading today.
Every week we sing this song and share in this feast
Boldly proclaiming that Christ has conquered evil, that death and division have had their last day,
And that we triumph over our losses and fears with Christ.
We sing the song with Christians down the road at Valley Baptist
With the Friday night community at Grace in Hartford
With the homeless gathering for worship in Bushnell Park on Saturdays for Church by the Pond
With Christians in Palestine and in Honduras and China, In Estonia and India.
We sing with the beloved who have gone before us,
With the great saints of history, and even a few villains converted and made new.
We join with Christians of every time and every place
To live into the reality that hunger and tears and destruction have lost their power
And that Christ is the center.
We join the party already in progress.
And though sometimes our worship is a pale comparison to that Great Promised Feast
It is a taste
Those with imagination can always hear the song
You sing it when you choose to live in Christ’s realm and to act on his priorities
You experience the feast in moments of connection to beauty, joy, and peace.
You feed on the vision, shared here in this place.
Tank up on the rich food of this inclusive feast,
Make the victory song your soundtrack
And know you are already part of the world made new in Christ.