|14. THE GREAT SUPPER, Dec 13, 2020|
The recording of this Sermon can be viewed on our St Herman's YouTube Channel
“A certain man, it says, made, even created a great supper.” I’d like to focus this morning on this “Great Supper.” What is it, and what’s it all about?
We read in Heb 1.3, “He is the effulgence of the Glory and Character [Stamp] of the Father’s Person (Hypostasis). Bearing all things [the whole of creation] by the WORD [or reality, rhemata: referring specifically to His Incarnation and Holy Pascha?] of His power, after He made or created the Cleansing of sins, He sat down at the Right Hand of the Majestic Greatness in the Highest.”
The “Cleansing of sins” reads here as though it’s an actual ‘thing’, a rhema in Greek. I believe that ‘thing’ is the Church, the Body of Christ, the reality that came to be when the Divine WORD [Logos, Who manifests the Father] became flesh. For, in the Church, in the Body (the rhema) of the Divine Logos incarnate, we receive the cleansing of sins through the sacramental mysteries, and we are placed on the Path that ascends to the Right Hand of the Father in the Highest.
It says that He made or created this Cleansing of sins ‘thing’. If this is His Body, it’s what He made or created when He knit Himself with the pure blood of the Virgin to fashion the Temple of His Body in the sanctuary of her womb. From this, I’m led to believe, that the Great Supper in this morning’s parable is the Church, this “Cleansing of sins” that the LORD made or created. You are here this morning ‘in person’ or ‘on-line.’ You have come to the Great Supper, the Cleansing of sins that the LORD God created in His Incarnation.
The LORD is telling this parable at a meal in the home of a Pharisee. This puts us in the setting of Moses and the prophets, for the Pharisees received both as inspired by God, unlike the Sadducees who received only the first five books of Moses. For that reason, the Pharisees believed in an after-life and in the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees did not. So, this parable of the “Great Supper” is given as a commentary on the resurrection of the dead according to the Scriptures, according to Moses, the Psalms and the prophets (Lk 24.44-45).
The LORD is telling this parable on the Sabbath, when God rested from His work of creation. Jesus is telling it shortly after He healed someone, again, on the Sabbath: this time, it was one of the dinner guests of dropsy (14.1-6), thereby making, creating someone new. So, the parable of the Great Supper is about the biblical meaning of the Sabbath.
Now, God is the one who rests on the Sabbath from His work of creating the world which, as it says in the Greek, He had begun to do (Gn 2.4 LXX). But, one notes that God goes directly from resting on the Sabbath (Gn 2.1-4) to raising Adam from the dust of the ground and fashioning him in His own image and likeness (Gn 1.26-27), and then breathing into him the breath of life—as though this is all happening within God’s Sabbath Rest—and then, He leads him, as on an Exodus, into the Garden of Eden that God had planted in the East (Gn 2.7-8). That is, He had made or created that Garden in the East, i.e., in His Resurrection. If Jesus is healing this dinner guest of dropsy while at a meal in the home of a Pharisee on the Sabbath, well, the parable of the Great Supper has to do with who this Jesus is! He must be the “certain Man” who made or created this Great Supper, this Cleansing of sins. He does so when He rests in the Tomb on the Sabbath and then raises Adam, mankind, from the dust of the ground to lead him into the Garden that He planted, the Great Supper, the “Cleansing of sins” that He made or created in the East, in His Holy Resurrection! Do you see? The Great Supper is Eden!
This parable of the Great Supper follows another set of parables about humbling oneself by seeking the lowest place, and about inviting the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, that is, those who cannot pay you back, so that you will be rewarded on the day of resurrection. Hearing this, one of the dinner guests says: “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” In response, the LORD gives this parable of the Great Supper.
This parable is assigned for our reflection on this, the Sunday of the Forefathers, two Sundays before Christmas. This tells us that the Great Supper is Christmas. And so, the parable brings us, let’s say, over the hill and into view of the Cave of Bethlehem to show us what Christmas is all about.
This certain Man who made or created the Great Supper, whom we now recognize as the LORD, sent (from ‘apostle’) His servant, it says, in the hour of the Feast to say to the many (which means everyone) who were called: ‘Come! For even now it is ready!’” (14.16-17) Note that it is a Great Supper, and that the hour of the Supper is now, today. Now, today, the Great Supper is ready. Remember that the LORD, at the tomb of Lazarus, called out to him with a great voice—as though calling him to the Great Supper. In Gethsemane, when He sees Judas coming to betray Him, He says to His disciples, “The hour is at hand.” (Mt 26.45) And, on the Cross, He cries out with a great voice: “It is finished!” as though He is calling out: “Come! The hour of the Great Supper is now, today! Everything is ready, everything is finished!” The LORD God, having become one with us in our birth and now even in our death, is ready to raise us up who had fallen! The Great Supper, then, is the great mystery of God hidden from the ages now set before us ‘on the Table,’ on the Altar of the Church. We can now eat at table with God as His invited guests. That is, it’s now possible—it’s ready to happen, as the parable says—for each of us to become one with God, for God has become one with us.
Christmas, then, the Great Supper of Immanuel: “God With Us!” is the Feast when God begins to finish His work of creation by creating the Cleansing of sins. He begins to raise Adam from the dust. He breathes into him the breath of life. He leads Adam, if Adam will follow, to the Great Supper that He, the LORD, has made. He leads Adam into the mystery of His Sabbath Rest, the mystery of His Holy Pascha, and into the Garden of His Holy Resurrection. This is the real Christmas. It is the Great Supper in the banquet Hall—the Cave of Bethlehem, the Tomb of the LORD’s Sabbath rest, the Garden of the LORD’s Resurrection—it is in the banquet hall of the New Creation, the Cleansing of sins, the mystery of Eden. It is the mystery of the Church, the crucified and risen Body of God the Son that He made or created in the sanctuary of the Virgin’s womb in the Cave. And, the LORD is calling out to each of us to “Come to the Great Feast!”
Those who choose not to come into the Cave of the Great Feast, how are they not in the line of Cain? It was the line of Cain that built cities, their arts, technologies and industries in the hope of escaping the misery of their soul from God’s curse. They are the inventors of tinsel-town Christmas and of the fairy-tale Santa Claus—the distortion of the real Santa Claus, St Nicholas, beyond recognition—hoping to find in these a measure of comfort from the cold darkness of a dead soul in stuffed stockings hung on the chimney with care and presents under the tree.
But, those who come to the Great Feast in the Cave are those who lay aside every façade, every pretense, to offer to the Holy Christ Child the “gift” of their maimed, crippled, impoverished and blind soul—i.e., to offer the LORD who they really are. And, at the Table of His Great Supper, the Cleansing of Sins that He has made, the Savior gives to us His own Body and Blood as the medicine of immortality, that removes and takes away, that cleanses us of our sins. And, He leads us from the Cave of Christmas deeper into our soul, into the Tomb of His Holy Pascha, His Sabbath Rest, to lead us out into the Garden of His Resurrection in the East. Amen!