Preparations and Feast
We start early. Dressed in layers that reflect the cool spring morning, and the day of feasting to come. Waiting for the sun to rise. We are a faithful few, gathered and quiet – maybe a little impatient – steam rising from our cups, waiting. As the light blinks above the tree-line, we share a quick song, or nod, or soft smile, always a smattering call and response: “He is Risen”, “He is Risen, Indeed”, and we disperse. Middle schoolers, tired and awake earlier than normal, don their bunny ears and hide eggs for the not yet arrived younger kiddos. The tables are unfolded and tablecloths laid out, flowers placed, coffee made. We prepare for a Feast – potluck style. Preparations made by a people who have fasted the 40(ish) days of Lent, and who are looking forward to breaking that fast together.
As more people begin to gather, the turquoise tables fill. Quiche, bacon, eggs, potatoes, biscuits, linguica, burritos, fruit, monkey bread, every food we’ve fasted from, and cake and champagne with breakfast. While people bring the food, the strings and horns make up the background noise of the songs we sing this day each year. Practicing before the service, waiting and preparing for the ongoing feast. The “He is Risen”, “He is Risen, Indeed” is louder this time, an hour later, the sun fully up, and the tables prepared – a quick song and a quick prayer, and we eat together. Share our feast, break our fast. The younger kids, finished with their meal, are finally set free to hunt those hidden eggs, and the middle schoolers take on their role as “bunny patrol” to keep those littles from straying too far in their search.
Our Easter, we Feast. We’ve spent Lent fasting and considering, contemplating, praying, and discerning. Then, Inspired many years ago by N.T Wright’s words in “Surprised by hope”, “ …if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again–well, of course.”
All of this, and the congregation moves to the sanctuary doors – still tied with a large rope – closed since the Good Friday service 3 days prior – sealed like the tomb…and we sing as we open the doors, processing to our seats, hugging friends and strangers finally together again. “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death..” we repeat in song until everyone is seated, and continue to worship: singing, speaking, listenings, baptizing, and then partaking together in the feast of communion before being sent back out – Easter people – to continue the feast.
People of Feast
We are reminded weekly to live as Easter people. To live as people who can read Psalm 118 and speak the words “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord” and give thanks and praise, and we can feast. But a feast takes so much work, and fasting feels easier – feels more constant. Fasting, with its melancholy strains of “giving up” that echoes of penance, of suffering – feels easier because it fits our human version of humility – because sin and death follow and haunt us in ways we can’t explain, and often wouldn’t recognize. The challenge to be Easter people, to live into the feast, is just that, a challenge. If we’re living into a feast, what comes next? Isn’t the feast the end goal of a fast? The reward for giving up?
But we do not give up the feast, and I think being Easter people means re-orienting our ideas around feast – around festival – to include, explicitly, the weekly communion table. To give thanks that the table has been prepared for us, not as a reminder of our sin, but as a generous gift. Even in our liturgical practice of fasting, during Lent and Advent, the feast is prepared – the table is spread and served, in my church – weekly.
This is the table prepared, the bread given, the wine poured – life and breath and a promise of continued life.
Perpetual Fast and the Feast
My heart and soul and spirit has felt broken and re-broken over the last year. My family, alongside many friends, alongside many of you, has experienced our share of depression, anxiety, addiction, grief, and loss caused or amplified by these years of pandemic which has left so many hurting. We’ve all attempted to balance these hurts and the loneliness that surround them alongside our need to continue to live as we are called – in community with others. In a house echoing with the voices of my family, I’ve longed for friends to share my table, my home, my life. I’ve longed to prepare a feast and create space for a community to be built and to thrive, but I’m held back by the remnants of what used to be and what is now. The fasting from shared space has caused my hospitality to waver and catch, and I’ve begun to question what it is to be hospitable, what it is to feast. I push aside invitations by making excuses: the floor is constantly covered in dog hair, and even through my attempts to wipe them clean, the dust covers every surface of my home, there’s not enough time, will friends be comfortable? Invitations remain dormant, unsent emails, thought texts never sent, words playing just behind my voice – never asked. How can I be hospitable to friends when it may cause extra work for my tired family; may stretch them beyond their capacities to provide space? I struggle and want to be the one to set the table, to invite the guests into my home, to prepare space for community – a place to come together and heal what has been broken.
This year I am trying to remind myself that in some seasons, it’s good enough to attend the feast, partake of it, and prepare again when I am able. This is how I want to approach the table, with grief of the fast, and joy in the feast. I want to approach with full acceptable and understanding that preparation takes more than just my own home, my own table, and that a feast has been prepared for me that I cannot repay, that I cannot earn, that we are all invited to – that Jesus died and was raised, that we are Easter people, and we shall feast.
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4 thoughts on “Prepare the Table”
This piece is beautiful and really thought provoking. I appreciate the way you compared fasting to feasting. I never thought about the challenges to feasting. It does take more time because of communal aspects but as you indicate, it points us to the feast Jesus prepared.
“But a feast takes so much work, and fasting feels easier . . . ” So very true. It’s so much easier and safer to live in a scarcity mindset instead of banking on abundance. Thank you for your words!!
Thank you, Tammy! (And Happy belated Birthday!).
A nice article. “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord” and give thanks and praise, and we can feast. We will live to bring God the glory and prosper in Him