August 26, 2011

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Dig into the feast of grace!

Sean GallagherThey say that what goes around comes around.

Well, one of the things that went around in my life when I was a child is coming around now in my own children—pickiness while eating.

My mom likes to recall how, when I was a little boy, I once surreptitiously put a sausage patty into my pants pocket that I didn’t want to eat at dinner one night. The only thing is I forgot to take it out of my pocket after the meal, and just as surreptitiously throw it away. So Mom discovered the patty in my pocket the next day while doing laundry.

My own boys haven’t repeated that trick—yet! And my oldest son, Michael, seems at 9 to be growing out of the finicky eating habits that he had earlier.

In fact, at a lot of meals, we can’t get food on his plate fast enough. He is a growing boy, after all.

But Michael’s three younger brothers often balk at one or another food that they are served, much to the chagrin of my wife, Cindy, who works hard to prepare our family’s meals. Hopefully, in the years to come, she will be able to make light of our boys’ mealtime antics, much like my mom does now about mine when I was young.

This often daily trial made me think of how the life of grace in God’s kingdom is often described in the Bible as a sumptuous feast. The following verse from Isaiah captures this image particularly well: “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” (Is 25:6).

Jesus continued this tradition by using feasts, and particularly wedding feasts, as a recurring image for the kingdom of God in his preaching and parables. And the Bible ends with the glorious vision of the wedding feast of the lamb in Revelation.

A cursory glance at this dominant image in Scripture might lead us to imagine that this feast of the life of grace is filled with foods that we love to eat.

After all, in God’s kingdom why would there be any occasion for frustration or disappointment? And, indeed, such will be the case in the feast that awaits us in the heavenly Jerusalem.

But that will be so because we will have been wholly transformed by God’s grace into the pure and holy people that he created us to be. In heaven, we won’t be as we are now, for “nothing unclean will enter it” (Rv 21:27).

Although the banquet of grace that awaits us in heaven will be glorious, God doesn’t deprive us of grace here and now. The difference is, on this side of eternity, the feast that God provides includes foods that don’t suit our palates.

It can be easy for us to see how God works in our lives when what we have been hoping for is coming true in both small and big things. That’s like God laying before us a rich, juicy steak—or whatever food makes your mouth water.

His grace is equally poured out upon us in life’s tough times. They come our way in serious trials like broken relationships, crippling illnesses or the loss of a job. But we also experience them in little everyday annoyances that are a part of life.

God gives us his grace in all of these moments that we would rather avoid. It just can seem like they are Brussels sprouts and lima beans. OK—those are two foods that I’m not particularly fond of.

If, in our life of faith, we all act more like Michael and work through our childish bad eating habits, then the feast of God’s grace in this life will more and more resemble the eternal banquet of heaven.

Dig in! †

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