Feast or Famine?
Part II: How should we celebrate?
by Bernhard Stock
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said:A feast in the wilderness
Isn’t this amazing? The Israelites have been an occupied people for 400 years in Egypt and now they ask Pharoah to let them go so they can hold a feast to the Lord! When God was about to set his people free from slavery, he told them to prepare a feast!
As we saw in Part I, scripture teaches us that genuine feasting has its origin in God – it has eternal roots. The Book of Genesis tells us that when God created the universe, he interrupted his work on the seventh day, the Sabbath, and established a feast. All major feasts in the Jewish and Christian tradition have at their root something which God did – he delivered his people from Egypt, he gave the commandments, he sent his Son, the Lord Jesus, who died for our sins and then rose again to bring us new, unending life with him.
What can we learn from the scriptures about how to celebrate well, especially as families? In the Exodus account of the Passover, we can see a model or pattern for how God wanted his people to celebrate. The Passover (or Seder), which is celebrated every year in Jewish homes, is known in Jewish tradition as the feast of all feasts because it celebrates God’s deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt. I want to pick out three important elements for our consideration about feasts: commemorating, giving thanks, and celebrating.
And it can be really helpful to tell it. In our community (the Bread of Life in Munich), we celebrate a big Christian passover seder every year. And at this celebration, we ask someone to “tell the story” – the story of our deliverance, our exodus, in a new and fresh way. Over the years, we have discovered more and more about the exodus, since each storyteller has his different version of it. And then, we ask someone to tell the story of our community during the last year – what God has done with us.
As a community we encourage all of our families to regularly have a Lord’s Day celebration meal in their homes on Saturday evening as a way of preparing ourselves to mark Sunday as the Lord’s Day – a day set-apart, sundown to sundown, to rest from our normal work and activities so we can honor the Lord in a special way and worship together. In the Lord’s Day celebration meal we can tell each other the stories of what God has done for us in the last week, or so. And of course, whenever the gospel is read in a celebration, it is also “telling the story”: Remember, O people of God, what great things he has done for each one of us!
When we remind ourselves of the deeds of the Lord, we should think of ourselves as participating in it again, since as Jewish tradition says, “if you don’t consider yourself as being part of it, you are not celebrating well.” This also gives us a guideline for our emotions: they should not be an expression of our personal mood, but rather an appropriate answer to the “eternal reason” of our celebration: awe in the presence of God, joy about the work of salvation, mourning for sin, attentive while hearing about his deeds (see Nehemiah 8:9-10).
to give thanks
When the Queen of Sheba, who did not believe in the one God, visited King Solomon, she was impressed: by the food, the clothing of his servants, the way they served, the order at the table (2 Chronicles 9:3) – she was impressed by the way he knew how to celebrate! And she ascribed Solomon’s wisdom to his God. If Solomon’s court is so wonderful, he must have a wonderful God! Could others say this about us?
the Lord’s Day
Observing the Lord’s Day and celebrating it well are not only “good things”. They are vital. Scholars say that Judaism owes its survival through the centuries, and all the persecutions – and in the diaspora without a temple for almost two thousand years – to the Jews’ faithful and continuing observance of the Sabbath. The Sabbath celebration in families, and then the meeting in the synagogue and the strict adherence to keeping a day of rest.
We could also have a look at other celebrations during the year: the big feasts of our salvation (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost), celebrations in our communities, and personal occasions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.). As we learn to celebrate these well, we are only anticipating the one, ultimate, and eternal celebration: the wedding banquet of the Lamb (Revelations 21) which is pointed to throughout the scriptures:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined.[Berhnard Stock, a gifted teacher and a founding leader of Brot des Lebens (Bread of Life Community) in Munich, Germany, is actively involved in community building work for the European region of the Sword of the Spirit. To read Part I of this series, see the October 2007 Issue.]
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