For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, says the Lord God, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land; there I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred things. As a pleasing odor I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. You shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your ancestors.
— Ezekiel 20:40-42
he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
— Luke 24:35
Many of you have heard me invoke one of my favorite statistics: the single greatest indicator of a child’s ability to navigate adolescence without a major catastrophe is whether or not their family eats at a table together once a week. I have to tell you, I honestly do not remember where I heard that first and am not even totally sure of the accuracy of it, but I believe it. There is something singularly beautiful in the gathering of a family around a table, something profoundly holy.
I remember so many Thanksgiving meals with my family over the years. Memories that populate my understanding of life. This year will be different. We will not gather, at least not physically. It will be just Karen and I at the table, an iPad connecting us to loved ones in other places. Somehow a Zoom conversation is a poor substitute for the laughter and the activity of a family meal, and yet here we are. Maybe this is a chance for us to return to the longing of our faith for the real family meal — “when we feast at his heavenly banquet” as our common liturgy puts it.
There was in the first century a longing for life to be made right, for the exile of the nation to undone, for all to be gathered together again. Somehow, our earliest ancestors saw in the person of Jesus Christ, the beginnings of that fulfillment. We who claim this faith, we who see Christ in the breaking of bread still long for all to be gathered together again. As we begin again our Advent journey, I invite you to embrace your longing for that big family table.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own.
We all do extoll thee, thou leader triumphant,
And pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
Ever present God, you taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. Grant that we may ever be found watching for the coming of your Son. Prepare us to share in that feast of joy when all people will be gathered together as one to proclaim the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of your Christ. Amen.
Pastor Tom Greener