As a pastor of a local church, I often walk alone through the empty auditorium of our building during the week. In the stillness, I look at the empty pews and think of the people who will fill them on Sunday during the ‘dinner rush.’ I contemplate the text I am working through that week and the sermon I am preparing for them. I look at the raised pulpit and large table and anticipate the food that will be served to them. I reflect on the movement of the liturgy, which, in some ways, resembles the structure of an Italian meal. The salutation after the invocation is like the aperitivo (aperitif). The absolution after the confession of sins is the antipasto (appetizer). The sermon is the primo (first course), and the Lord’s Supper the secondo (second course). A contorno (side dish) might be served, if there is a baptism that day, but the meal will always conclude with formaggio e frutta (cheese and fruits) and/or dolce e caffe (dessert and coffee), that is, a benediction. I think of how, throughout the meal, we will raise our glasses of fine sangiovese or nero d’avola wine in response to the God of grace, singing his praise confessing his goodness and mercy to us. This is a dining hall where God meets his people and feeds them with the surprising feast of Christ. These are the means he has ordained to give us refreshment, nourishment, and delight in this present evil age, a foretaste of that great meal to come:
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 he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that 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, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. this is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ (Isa 25.6-9)
We experience a foretaste of that heavenly meal this Lord's Day at CURC. In the morning Divine Service, we will hear God speak to us from Nehemiah 8, "The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength," as our series on The Drama of Redemption concludes. In the evening meal, we will feast on Philippians 4.23, "Grace Gets the Final Word," as our series on Philippians also comes to an end. May we prepare to eat by hearing, and may we hear and live. Buon appetito!