Church is not the Feast…

What words come to mind at the mention of “Feast”? Choice foods…Best quality…delectable treats…luscious desserts…more than enough…fully satisfied…special occasion…invitation only…

It’s quite the ‘christianese’ phrase, and we hear it all the time…”I go to church to be fed.”  But is that really the place we are supposed to be fed?  Is this the location we go to feast?

I’ve recently been contemplating this idea of what is the true purpose of gathering together on a Sunday morning (or Saturday night…you know what I mean)?  Are we to be gathering together on one particular day because that is the only time we are being fed?  A few weeks ago, I heard an interesting statement and I have not been able to get it out of my head.

“Church is the menu.  Church can be an appetizer.  But, Church is not the Feast.”

There are over 1500 mentions of the word ‘feast’ (or phrases that indicate a feast) in the Bible.  Most of these references are talking about all of the amazing Feasts that God set in place in the Old Testament.  These were specific opportunities for the Israelite’s to stop what they were doing in their every day life and create space to worship and honor the Almighty God.

There are seven annual sacred Feasts of the Old Testament, commonly referred to as the “Feasts of Remembrance.”  These 7 Feasts are: Passover (Signified the Redemption of Israel); Feast of Unleavened Bread (Signified the Sanctification of the Israel); Feast of the Firstfruits (Signified Resurrection of Israel as a free people); Feast of Weeks (Pentecost: Signified the Origination of Israel as the Covenant people Of Yahweh); Feast of Trumpets (Signified the calling Israel to judgment); Feast of Atonement (Signified the Atonement of the Covenant people); and the Feast of the Tabernacles (Signified God’s presence with His Covenant people; looked forward to the coming of the Messiah).*

All of these feasts were filled with celebration (AND lots of eating) of what God had done for the people. How He had freed them from Egyptian slavery, how He had given them a new land, how He saved the people from the Angel of Death, and simply how He had provided for them year after year, generation after generation.  But they were also filled with times of offering sacrifices to God through the Priests.  This is, of course, a very very brief overview on the Feasts of the Old Testament.  But my point is this ~ these feasts were special times set aside to do one thing and one thing only…to worship and honor God.  This is the same kind of attitude I believe we need to have today, and I don’t think it only happens on Sunday.

The word feast can be a noun or a verb.  As a noun, we see that it means: “any rich or sumptuous meal; something highly agreeable; a periodical celebration or time of celebration.” As a verb, it means: “to have or partake of a feast; to east sumptuously; to dwell with gratification or delight.”  I love that last part of the definition!

To feast with the Lord is to dwell in the presence of your Host with a grateful attitude, delighting to be at the table and enjoying the richness of the sumptuous bounty He has to offer us! (R.A.B.)

I’m not saying here that you cannot be fed by the Word while you are at church.  This is what the speaker that I referenced earlier meant as well.  We need to go church and worship with the community of believers for several reasons.  First and foremost, God calls us to be together.

Hebrews 10:24-25 teaches us how important this is. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

It is incredibly vital to the life of every Christian to be in fellowship with other people who worship the Lord.  Most often this happens when we attend church services together.  Collectively praising God in song with a congregation is a visceral experience.  Being in the presence of like-minded people whose goal is to honor the Lord joyfully in song is a beautiful thing.  Guess what though?  The singing part of the church service isn’t the only “worship” part of church.  The ENTIRE service is WORSHIP!

A friend of mine recently had a funny experience, well, maybe odd is a better description.  She was about to go into the church service which was already in progress.  The singing portion was in full swing.  There was a woman already in the foyer area and said to her, “Oh, I’m not going in yet.  I’m waiting until all the worship singing is done.  There is so much of it.” (I’m paraphrasing here…but that was the gist.)  My friend looked at her in disbelief for several reasons: 1) her husband is the worship Pastor, 2) this woman’s husband played with the worship team band, and 3) this woman is involved with the choir ministry!  So my friend smiled at her and before going into the sanctuary said, “Well, the whole service is a worship service!”  She said that the woman looked horrified.

I share this story because it is a perfect example of the “menu/appetizer” mentality of so many church-goers.  They pick and choose what parts they want to be a part of.

They want to sing, but only if it’s from the traditional hymnal.

They won’t sit in worship to sing unless they are singing contemporary songs that you can hear on the radio.

If the ‘wrong’ songs are played, or if the message preached that morning doesn’t agree with them, they feel justified in withholding their tithe check that week. {Sadly, I know this one first hand as I worked as the Admin to a previous pastor and read some of the most disheartening letters to the pastor after a “failed” sunday morning.}

Not to focus on the negative…here’s some thoughts on the positive side of the church being the ‘menu’ or ‘appetizer’ ~ through the worship songs and the sermon that is delivered to the congregation, we are given delightful morsels from the Word of God.  We are given a taste of the goodness and greatness of our God.  We are able to sample a portion of what the Lord has to offer us in His Word.

Your church pastor has been given an amazing job, in that the Lord has given them the ability and opportunity to share with others all the wealth of the Feast that IS God’s Word. The pastor is not supposed to be the only person you learn from.  The church is not supposed to be the only location from which you learn in.  The pastor and the church experience each week are supposed to be the jumping off point…the place of fellowship where we can be recharged in order to go out through the rest of the week, encouraged to delight in personal time with the Lord and His Scripture.

This is where the Feasting comes in...

Personal times of worship in prayer and in song to the Lord are just as vital (if not more so!) ~ this is why I feel this is the real feast!  When we are in a quiet place, spending time in His Word and in prayer, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to lavish spiritual nourishment to our soul.  When we spend time with the Lord, we are making a statement…that we want to be more in tune with the Lord and all He has for us.  Sometimes those prayer experiences have us saying nothing at all but declaring the holy Name of Jesus.  More often than not, when I have prayed a verse or passage out loud, or sang a Psalm to Him, or just sat quietly asking the Lord to speak to my heart ~ those are the times that I have felt the closest to Him.  Of course He wants to hear from us:  what our hearts are desirous of, what we are hurting from, who or what we are having a difficult time with. But if we are always the one talking…we are unable to listen to what God is wanting to whisper to our heart.

This my friends is the Feast.

To be made aware of the voice of God and how He speaks into our lives.

exodus-12-verse-14

All those feasts that the Israelite’s of the Old Testament were called to observe were due in part to the fact that the Savior had not come to earth yet.  There was a strict process in the preparation and the enjoyment of each Feast and why/when they were observed.  But with the coming of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, we were given in Him the true Feast.  He is the Word in flesh. (John 1:14)  He is the reason we celebrate our salvation. Through Him we gain the abundant knowledge we need in order to walk through this life.  We are given the Fruit of the Holy Spirit with which to feast on.  But this can only happen when we spend time with Him and in scripture.  And the best part…we can come to Him every moment of every day!  We don’t have to wait for a special decree to enter the throne room of God and worship at His feet! What a beautiful gift and privilege!  E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y!!!

The time of feasting in the presence of the Lord is not meant to only happen a few times a year.  It is not even meant to simply happen on Sunday mornings. It is not something on our schedule to check off.

Feasting is to be a daily experience.  All throughout the day we are to be feasting in His presence.  To be so close to the Lord of Hosts, that we can smell the aroma of His love.  To be so close that we can feel the brush of His hands on ours, as He directs our path. To be so close that we can recognize His voice as He calls us to dwell with Him.

Come to Him and enjoy the Feast!

Blessings,

René

 

* http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts

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