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Archive for the ‘The Lord's Supper’ Category

Preached by Rev. Father Toms at St. Paul’s Reformed Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, on July 19, 2009

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The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Rev. 19:9

            One of my great grandmothers was an old landmark Baptist, believing that only Baptist churches were true churches, only Baptist ministers were true ministers, and only Baptist ordinances were true ordinances.  She also never tired of telling people that the Baptist church was the bride of Christ.  She believed that people from other denominations could go to heaven, but they would only be invited guests at the marriage supper of the lamb, not part of the bride of Christ.

            In my early 20s, I had a pastor who believed in what is sometimes referred to as the “split-rapture” of the Church, a minority view even among premillennial dispsensationalists.  This pastor of mine taught that when the Church was raptured, only the faithful Christians would be caught away to participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb.  The bad Chrsitians, the carnal Christians would be left here on earth to go through the tribulation for seven years, and at the end of the seven years, they would be part of the millennial kingdom that Christ would set up here on earth.  I always thought this idea resembled a seven-year purgatory.  Since my pastor believed in once saved always saved, it seemed he had to find a way to punish those people who were saved, but who had not lived in obedience to Christ.  If you told him that you were willing to risk seven years of tribulation in exchange for a sinful life here on earth, he would say that he would rather miss heaven than miss the marriage supper of the Lamb.

            I could go on and on describing the various views concerning the marriage supper of the Lamb.  If you were to collect all of the commentaries on the book of Revelation and read all the discussions about Revelation 19, you would walk away dazed and dizzy by all the competing opinions.  Depending on whether the interpretations are preterist, historicist, futurist, premillennial, amillennial, or postmillennial, the explanations will differ concerning who is the bride, who are those called to the feast, and who are the guests.  Bible scholars are divided over when the events in Revelation 19 actually take place, or took place, as the case may be.  But in the history of the church, and within Anglicanism, there has been a long tradition of seeing Revelation 19 as an example of “the already” and the “not yet.”  The Church is already, now, the bride of Christ, but we have not yet experienced all the glories of that relationship that we will experience with our heavenly bridegroom when we enter into the eternal state.    Every time we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, we are attending the marriage supper of the Lamb, but we have not yet experienced the marriage supper with all of the glory that shall attend it when we eat and drink in his presence in heaven.  But every time we celebrate the marriage feast here, we have a foretaste of the marriage feast there.  Our celebration of the marriage feast here is as close as we can get to heaven while we are on this earth, for, as a matter of fact, when we say, Lift up your hearts, we are transported in a mystical way to the heavenly precincts,  and celebrate the marriage feast in the presence of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

        We need to enter fully into the realization that our Eucharistic feast is indeed the marriage supper of the Lamb.  Thomas Ken, one of the famous nonjuring bishops that Bishop Sutton mentioned yesterday,  wrote a book entitled, The Retired Christian Exercised in Divine Thoughts and Heavenly Meditations.  In that book, he has a meditation for the Eucharist and he writes, “Thou art invited, O my soul! to a royal banquet… It is the marriage-supper of the great King ; let us then get on the wedding-garment, that we may go out to meet the bridegroom of my soul.” One of the famous 18th century Anglican preachers was William Romaine.  In his book, The Life, the Walk, and the Triumph of Faith, he gives a meditation to be used after Communion which reads in part, “What an honour is it to be admitted to a feast instituted by the Lamb of God, and for the enjoyment of the love of God! What a blessing is it to sit down now to the marriage supper of the Lamb; and to partake by faith of its spiritual realities and delights! There is nothing beyond this upon earth; and it has sometimes been to the believing receiver a foretaste of heaven….

        Do we believe that each time we come here to partake of this Holy Eucharist that we are attending the marriage supper of the Lamb?    It shouldn’t be difficult for us to see how this sacrament is the marriage supper of the lamb and at the same time a foretaste of the heavenly marriage supper.  This sacrament is about union and communion.  What is a wedding but a celebration of union and communion, two becoming one?  Think of holy communion:   The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:16).  In Holy Communion we celebrate our union with Jesus Christ, that we become one body with him, that he might dwell in us, and we in him.  No wonder it is a wedding feast!  Do we have this sense that we are coming to the greatest feast that could ever be offered to us?  If not, then surely it is because we do not truly understand what Christ has done for us on the cross, and we do not understand the benefits that we receive from participating in this blessed sacrament.  

What could possibly compare with the benefits that we receive as a result of participating in this Holy Sacrament?  No wonder that our Lord said, in our gospel reading for today, “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”  This is the real feast.  This is the real food and drink.  Everything else that we might try in this world to satisfy the longings of our souls, everything else that we might experience in this life in the attempt make us feel that we are truly alive, whether it is pleasure, wealth, or fame, is bound to leave us empty and dissatisfied.  On the other hand, Blessed are they, happy are they, who are invited, who are called to this supper, because this is where true happiness is, this is where true satisfaction is found.

In the past few weeks we have been reminded of how fleeting life is as heard of the deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, and even lesser known people such as the Oxyclean pitchman Billy Mays and the comedian Fred Travalena.  Whenever we hear of the deaths of such people, we often wonder if they were truly happy?  Did their wealth and their fame give them the satisfaction that they believed it would when they set out to pursue these things?  And in the final analysis, what were their lives all about?  What was the point? Whatever might have been true about the lives of these famous and wealthy people,  it is only those who know Christ who have found genuine life in all of its fullness.  And this is why we cherish this feast so much.  It is a means through which our union with Christ is nourished, nurtured, solidified, and as our union with him is strengthened, we have life indeed, because we partake of food and drink indeed.  What can satisfy us the way that this sacrament satisfies us?  This is the real food and drink.

            Last year at this conference, some of us were standing out in the parking lot, and we were trying to decide where we were going to eat supper.  Someone asked Fr. Brad Cunningham where he would like to eat, and he said anywhere was OK with him.  So someone suggested a restaurant and Brad said that that was not really one of his favorite places.  Then someone said, Well, there is a nice Mexican restaurant close by, and Fr. Brad said, “You know,  I don’t really care for Mexican food.”  So, someone said, “Well Brad, you pick the place.”  And he said, “No, anywhere’s fine with me.”  Finally, we decided on Pappadeaux’s and when we did, “Bishop Sutton looked at me said, “Pappadeaux’s must sound like heresy to you.”  And of course, he was right, but unlike Brad, I went along with it.  But I’m from Baton Rouge, and not only do we have numerous wonderful seafood restaurants in Baton Rouge, but I’m only 66 miles from New Orleans.  Pappadeux’s is OK, but it’s not Gallatoire’s,  or the Court of Two Sisters, Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s or even the Café des Amis in little Breaux Bridge.  Once you have feasted on real Cajun food, it is hard to be satisfied with the Yankee seafood in Dallas.  And once you have really feasted with Christ in his blessed sacrament, once you have known the intimacy of fellowship that we have with him at his marriage feast, then you know that there is nothing else in this world that could ever satisfy you.  You know the truth of his words in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life:  he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”  This feast becomes your joy here on earth and you live in joyful anticipation of that heavenly expression of this feast, where we will experience nothing more than the full satisfaction of his glorious presence and communion with him.   No wonder then we are told, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.   When we think of all the benefits that receive as we partake of Holy Communion, no wonder we would be described as the happy.  Who would not be happy to be invited to such a feast, happy to partake of the most delicious of all meals.

But there is another reason to be happy to attend such a feast.  If you look at the context of Revelation 19, it is not only a wedding feast, but also a victory feast.  Babylon, the great whore has fallen.  So in Revelation 19, there is a celebration of God’s judgments, a celebration of his power, the power to defeat all his enemies.   “Alleluia,” for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”  What could be better than feast that is a victory celebration?

Some of you may not keep up with college baseball, but if you do, you know that LSU beat Texas to win the College World Series a couple of weeks ago.  Just thought I would mention that.  That was our sixth national baseball title.  LSU fans love to go to Omaha for the College World Series.  But do you know who loves for LSU to go to Omaha more than LSU fans?  The people of Omaha, because the people who own the restaurants and bars in Omaha know that nobody eats and drinks as much as 10,000 Cajuns.  Really, do you think the people of Omaha are pulling for Rice to get there?  But after LSU won the college world series on Wednesday there was a big celebration at Alex Box stadium the next day and the baseball team showed up with 3,000 of our fans for a victory celebration.  But wait, we had 9,000 fans in Omaha.  Where were they?  They were still in Omaha, eating and drinking.  They are probably still there, feasting on Longhorns, no doubt. 

What could be better than a wedding feast combined with a victory celebration; better yet, the celebration of a wedding that has come to pass because of a glorious victory.  For when we celebrate holy communion, we truly celebrate the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We celebrate his death, because he came into the word that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil.   

Our Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and he invites us to union and communion with him in order that we might share in his victory.  And this victory feast is only a foretaste of that victory feast when at last, death is swallowed up in victory, when death and hades are cast into the lake of fire, when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power, and every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the father.  We celebrate that victory now and look forward to that time when free from all taint of sin we can perfectly love him and worthily magnify his holy name.

So, today, you are called to the marriage feast of the Lamb.  You don’t have to wait until death, until the second advent to experience the victorious celebration of the marriage feast of the lamb.  You are called to come now. 

you have this unspeakable privilege of hearing this call—come to the feast, come to the marriage.  Who could turn down the call to such a satisfying and joyful feast?

            And as we are refreshed, strengthened, and made joyful by this feast, it is then our duty to go into this world, into the highways and hedges, with the glorious invitation, come to the feast.  We go into this world with the good news, the good news that the Pharisees meant as a criticism of our Lord, This man receives sinners, and eateth with them.  What a joy to be ambassadors who carry about with them the greatest of all invitations, Come, for all things are now ready.  Christ is ready to receive you.  Christ invites you to his table.  Christ is ready to have fellowship with you now and throughout all eternity. 

He will give you genuine life for you will be united to him.  And when this life is over, all of the things which have caused us so much misery and pain, sin and death, will be trampled under his feet, never to rise again, and you will sing Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth for ever and ever.  That is our message to the world.   Let us pray that every time we approach this table, it truly would be for us a feast, so powerful, so wonderful, that we would consider it our greatest joy and privilege to call others to the marriage supper of the Lamb. 

Amen.

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