Monday, July 25, 2005

Matt 8.11-12 and a communion song

Over the last 3 years I’ve spent a lot of time looking over Matt 8.11-12 – ‘I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ In fact, I can say that I have read this verse nearly every day for the past 3 years!!! Working on the verse so much had led me to write an article on it (pace Dale C. Allision; which I am hoping to submit to NTS by the end of the week) and also to write communion song using Matt 8.11-12 as the template.

Meditating on this passage led me to believe that in Jesus’ ministry, his open table-fellowship functioned to foreshadow exactly who would participate in the eschatological banquet. Banqueting imagery is used most often to denote those whom God would vindicate in the face of adversity (e.g. Isaiah 25; Ezekiel 39; Revelation 19).

{Note: Matt 8.11-12 is often erroneously referred to as a ‘messianic banquet’, but technically it is only the messianic banquet if the messiah himself hosts the banquet. Here it is hosted by the patriarchs}

Jesus’ table-fellowship was, in effect, handing out the hors’ deuves of the eschatological banquet and overturing who would be participating and, notoriously, who wouldn’t – something I think that Matt 8.11-12 addresses. God would vindicate the poor, lame, blind and disempowered who attached themselves to him rather than the religious and political leaders. I think the logion in Matt 8.11-12 is a defense of Jesus’ open-table practice dressed up in apocalyptic language.

This in turn, moved me to consider how the messianic banquet of Revelation 19 is itself foreshadowed by the Lord’s Supper. With these ideas fresh in my mind I went on a song writing weekend with some mates from Church and I wrote the lyrics for a song (for which Dave Shepherd composed the music) entitled ‘Ready Your Hearts’ – here are the lyrics.

Many will come from the east and the west
And recline at the table of God
Sinners and mourners are counted as blessed
Led as one to the city of God

Ready your hearts for the glorious feast
This table proclaims to us here
Singing songs of salvation at your vindication
As the banqueting day draws near
Gird up your minds for the triumph of God
This table proclaims to you
The Lord Jesus Christ through his sacrifice
Will return to make all things new

Many will come from the north and the south
And will dine with their heavenly king
Singing and laughing will burst from our mouths
On the day that death looses its sting

Many will come from the ends of the earth
A people with hearts full of praise
Then we shall sing for all of God’s worth
Magnifying the Ancient of Days

What I wanted to convey in this song was that communion is an anticipation of the good things of God; it is a vibrant metaphor that God has triumphed and the act of meeting together to break bread in Jesus’ name is, quite literally, a foretaste of the wedding supper of the Lamb. Communion is fundamentally a sumptuous feast of joy and not the occasion for a sermonette on 15 reasons why Christians should feel guilty before partaking of the elements. In the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, Whistle Down the Wind, one of the characters tells a young girl that: ‘There’s a feast waiting for ya and ya haven’t even had gotten a taste’. I say, that there is a feast waiting for us at Jesus’ table we get a taste and what a taste it is: sharing a meal with Jesus’ family and getting ready for the messianic banquet!

I think there is a book in here somewhere (though not according to IVP since they didn’t even read my two page synopsis but rejected the proposal anyway – maybe they’ll be weeping outside!), something I’d like to work on next year.

If anyone wants the song sheet etc. Contact Dave Shepherd at Grace Bible Church and maybe we can arrange something.


Jim Hamilton said...

Hallelujah! Thanks for pushing us to read the text more closely, Mike, and thanks for these beautiful lyrics.

I wonder if there's a way to post a clip of the tune somewhere so that we can get the melody in our heads?

At any rate, you have sharpened our minds and stirred our hearts, and we thank you.

Ben Myers said...

A very nice song, Mike! You'll have to hum me the tune when we next meet for pizza. I like your new sidebar layout too.

Milton Stanley said...

Enjoyed the post so much I blogged about it this morning. Peace.

Keith said...

Love this. Found it through Milton's post.

Reminds me too of the side-by-side "posting" of Lk 14:12-14 and v15-24, especially when comparing vv13 and 21.