Gearing up for Thanksgiving Day, I was looking for something meaningful to post here and I realized I had never shared “The Banquet Table”. [painted in March 2013] It hangs out above our dining table all year long. I thought it might be perfect timing to share this now before we feast.
For me, this image doesn’t just evoke words like “wedding feast” or “celebration” or even “Thanksgiving Day”. Those words are only part of the story. My deepest impression when I look at this picture on my wall every day is that of adoption.
Adoption is about being loved and accepted completely as a son or daughter. It means we’re not alone anymore. It means we experience being a permanent part of a family; the kind of family where no one is forgotten or excluded and you never get “kicked out”. It means having a Father who cherishes you as his darling child.
It’s kind of a process. It is surprisingly hard to drop the orphan mindset you have defaulted to for so long. But, really this is what Jesus calls us to: relationship.
In the original vision that inspired this painting, Jesus is seated at the head of the table. Here, He is represented by the glow beneath and arbor. Jesus beckons you to His banquet table. He motions for you to take the seat next to Him, as His beloved son or daughter. Because you were adopted into His family the moment you chose to believe, the best seat at His table is always saved just for you. There are many seats at this table, but you are called to take the seat next to Him, having full access to His loving attention.
During His time on earth, Jesus ate with His disciples and “sinners” frequently.
“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. “(Luke 9:17 NIV)
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.” (Matthew 9:10 NIV)
“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.” (Mark 2:15 NIV)
We find Jesus shared in meals even after His resurrection.
“Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (John 21:12-14 NIV)
What an unlikely thing to expect, that the King of kings, the Creator of all things, would invite you to come and sit and talk with Him over a meal. And yet, He does this even now.
There must be something to this custom of sharing a meal together. It’s like He is showing us by example how to be a family. Do we really get that He loves us that much? That we can be loved so completely? He suffered and gave His life for us at the cross as a clear declaration of I love you. And He asks us to love one another as He has loved us.
In our American culture at the moment, gathering together with a group for meals is not as common as it used to be. Unless it’s for a special occasion, people don’t seem to dine together regularly anymore. We’ve become unaccustomed to being connected in community and have lost a sense of value in eating a meal together and perhaps even lost the social skills required for healthy relationships. Why would we get together when we have so many other things that need to get done in a day? Or, why would we take time to meet with our friends or family when we’d much rather relax and unwind in front of our technology?
I think there must be a special parallel between eating (getting sustenance essential for life) and relating to one another (and most essential is the relationship with Christ). We find spiritual food for our souls when we gather together and partake in relationship.
It is not always a simple easy thing, being in relationship. I have a burden on my heart to address the issues of family and community. On this personal note, I have spent a number of holidays with family, alone and at other times with friends who are like family when I no longer had much family around anymore. I can remember one year making Thanksgiving dinner when I was a single mom. It was just me, my daughter and my mom (who is now passed) and my little girl asking me during the meal why we didn’t have more people with us. My heart ached at her desire to have a larger family than what we had at the time. I felt the same way. Another year, I was blessed to be invited to a friend’s holiday meal where I was the single person amid a house full of married families with children most of whom were strangers to me. I was grateful for the thoughtfulness of my friend’s invitation, but my heart ached at the loneliness of being with them. This Thanksgiving brings more change as some loved ones are now with Jesus.
I am choosing to be an adopted daughter this year regardless of where I celebrate. I will walk out the door remembering my identity as an adopted daughter of The Most High God. Just as I look at this picture daily, I want to remember that every day I have the opportunity to accept the invitation to dine with my God.
Wherever you may find yourself spending the holidays, please always remember how loved and adored you are by our Jesus. He loves you with a limitless love and He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 and 31:8, Joshua 1:5, 1 Chronicles 28:20, Psalms 37:28 and 94:14, Hebrews 13:5)