A Meal of Hope and Redemption

Sermon for Sunday, June 7, 2015
Second Sunday after Pentecost
1 Samuel 8:4-20; 11:14-15

The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me… forsaking me and serving other gods.”

Film buffs – and maybe “foodies” – may recognize the film in which the following meal was served:

  • First course: Potage a la tortue (turtle soup) served with Amontillado
  • Second course: Blinis Demidoff (buckwheat cakes with caviar and sour cream) served with Veuve Cliquot
  • Third: Cailles en Sarcophage (quail in a puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce) served with Clos de Vougeot (a famous Burgundy)
  • Fourth: endive salad
  • Fifth: Savarin au Rhum avec des Figues et Fruit Glacee (rum sponge cakee with figs and candied cherries), served with champagne
  • Sixth: assorted cheeses and fruits, served with sauterne
  • Seventh: coffee with cognac

“Babette’s Feast!”  It’s a wonderful film.  And if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

There are multiple famous meals in scripture, too.

  • An apple (Adam and Eve)
  • Five barley loaves and two fish (Jesus feeding the 5,000 in John 6)
  • Roast lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs (further hints: an unblemished, one-year old lamb, roasted – not boiled – eaten hurriedly with “your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand” –  the Passover meal, in Exodus 12)
  • The fatted calf (the Prodigal Son, Luke 15)
  • Cakes, curds and milk, and a tender calf from the herd (further hints: cakes made of three measures of choice flour, served under a tree in the heat of the day – Abraham serving the Lord, who appeared to Abraham as three men, at the oaks of Mamre, Genesis 18)

Hospitality of Abraham

There is a meal in scripture that is not famous and for which we do not know the menu, but it is an important meal – a very important meal – playing a key role in salvation history.  The meal mentioned at the very end of 2 Kings, after all the stories of Kings David and Solomon, after all the stories of the other kings of the northern and southern kingdoms, and after the fall of both the northern and then the southern kingdom.  It is a meal that symbolizes hope for God’s people:

In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, King Evil-merodach of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released King Jehoiachin of Judah from prison; he spoke kindly to him, and gave him a seat above the other seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes. Every day of his life he dined regularly in the king’s presence.

This meal is significant for us because today in the lectionary we begin a series of readings from Samuel and Kings.  (Samuel and Kings are essentially one book, together telling the story of the reigns of the kings of Israel.)  The trajectory of Samuel-Kings is that of a fall – “fall” with all the connotations of Adam and Eve and people choosing their own will instead of God’s.  And the meal at the end offers hope.

Already in today’s lesson, just a few chapters in to 1 Samuel, we see elements of the “fall.”  Rejecting God’s will, the people want Samuel to appoint a king over them.  The Lord says to Samuel:

Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

The remainder of Samuel-Kings is filled with stories of the kings,’ and the people’s, rejection of God, and the nation’s slow, inexorable fall. Though Samuel-Kings starts out with hope, and though there are occasional moments of light when a king does what is right in the sight of the Lord, the trajectory of Samuel-Kings  “falls” toward the exile.

It is into this fallen place, at the very end of 2 Kings, that King Evil-merodach invites King Jehoiachin of Judah to dine with him.  After 37 years of being in prison, the King of Babylon finally – FINALLY! – raises up Jehoiachin and invites him to dinner.  Their meal offers the people the hope of redemption.

Their story is our story.  Just as the Israelites went after other gods, so do we go after other gods.  Just as the Israelites’ choice cost them their freedom, so does our choice cost us our freedom.  Just as the Israelites went into exile, so do we go into exile.  AND… there is hope.

I have a hunch that you can tell me what is on the “menu” this morning…  Shortly, we will be eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, keeping his commandment to, “Do this for the remembrance of me.”  This “feast” is a symbol of hope, reminding us that, no matter how far we may have wandered, no matter the extent to which we may have squandered our inheritance, yet God – like the father of the Prodigal – is always ready to run out to meet us, to welcome us home with open arms, to declare, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!”  And to put “Fatted Calf” on the menu.

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