Fasting generally seems to be a topic modern Christians are much more comfortable talking about than feasting. Mind you, I don’t say we fast more often than we feast. Western Christians feast constantly. If we try to justify it, we tend to do that in terms of its fellowship value. I suppose that’s all right as far as it goes, though it doesn’t go very far, because we more often than not it is a glib rationalization rather than a serious biblical explanation of the role of feasting in the Christian life. Mostly for us our hearty consumption of food and drink is an end in itself. And even if we haven’t spent much time learning about the “seven deadly sins” (and most modern Christians haven’t), we do seem to know deep down that consuming food and drink as an end in itself puts us somewhere in the postal zone of gluttony.
On the other hand, modern western Christians are particularly anxious not be thought of as kill-joys. We are stung by the (unjust) accusation cast by H. L. Mencken at a certain 17th century clan of our brethren, to wit, that they were constantly worried that “somewhere someone was having a good time.”
Yet, one can hardly read the Bible even a little bit without discovering that feasting turns up in its pages at least as often as fasting does. That fact should prod us to do some serious wrestling with the issues of feasting, of celebrating by consuming an abundance of food and drink. It is certainly a bigger topic than can be exhausted in one sermon. But attached here you will find some biblical and theological explorations around the topics of the goodness of God and of Christian feasting. Thanksgiving eve was the occasion for the sermon. I offer it as a conversation starter.
Along with the audio sermon, I share here some quotations for a few sources that I am particularly familiar with. Some I use in the sermon itself. Others are bonus features.
Read: Isaiah 55:1-7
Listen: The Goodness of God and a Christian Theology of Feasting
There is an additional passage that is of interest on this topic that I had thought I might refer to in the sermon but never did is Nehemiah 8.
Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.1: “Our natural understanding and the works of creation and providence so clearly show God’s goodness, wisdom, and power that human beings have no excuse for not believing in him.”
Westminster Confession of Faith, 2.1: “He [God] overflows with goodness and truth.”
Westminster Confession of Faith, 2.2: “God has all life, glory, goodness, and blessedness in and of himself.” (see Ps. 119:68)
Westminster Larger Catechism, 189: “The opening of the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father in heaven) teaches us that when we pray we should draw near to God, confident of his fatherly goodness and the benefits to us from that goodness.” (see Lk. 11:13)
John Calvin, Inst. I.ii.1: “…God our maker supports us by his power, rules us by his providence, fosters us by his goodness, and visits us with all kinds of blessings. . . . He is the fountain of all goodness. . . .”
John Calvin, Inst. I.v.9: “And as Augustine expresses it (in Psalm 144), since we are unable to comprehend Him, and are, as it were, overpowered by his greatness, our proper course is to contemplate his works, and so refresh ourselves with his goodness.”
Heidelberg Catechism, 125: “‘Give us this day our daily bread’ means: Do take care of all our physical needs so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good, and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing. And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and trust in you alone.”
(Quotes from the Westminster documents are from the modern English version of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.)
©2013 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.