Biblical Reflection, Creative Nonfiction, Essays, Hope, Joy, Theology

Glimpses of the heavenly banquet

banquet

It happened almost two years ago, but I keep thinking about it. It was just a dinner with a group of people I had never met before. But somehow, it was also a glimpse of a wonderful reality beyond my everyday experience.

I was at the Frederick Buechner Writers Workshop at Princeton Theological Seminary, and I was trying to find someone to have dinner with. I tried getting in touch with a friend of my sister’s, but he was busy with other plans. I thought I might have to spend the evening by myself.

But a man named Sean, whom I recognized from one of the previous breakout sessions, struck up a conversation with me and invited me to join him and some other conference attendees for dinner.

Mike joined us and drove us to a local pub, where we met Ashley and Dave, and our conversation crackled as we discovered some things we had in common. Mike, Sean, and I were all Anglicans. Sean and Dave were both white men who had married Latinas and spoke Spanish very well. Mike and Ashley and I had had different experiences in which we had prayed for healing, and sometimes God had provided it, and other times he hadn’t.

The conversation we shared that night, and the things in common we discovered, have faded from my memory. It is something else that sticks with me now, at a distance of two years later. Something that connected us that night that I still can’t adequately describe. A current of energy and warmth bound us all together and kept the conversation going for hours, late into the night. I don’t know what it was—the Holy Spirit? A spark of real love and friendship?

Whatever it was, it felt nourishing and life-giving. I had just met these people, but somehow, I felt like I had known them for decades, and we were sharing our lives over a meal that satisfied both body and soul. I felt like the corner of a veil had been lifted, and I caught a brief glimpse of what it will be like to feast at God’s table with my brothers and sisters at the end of days.

Though I have enjoyed moments of fellowship with people since then, I haven’t had any glimpses of eternity quite like this. I still don’t quite understand what this experience means. But I know that the memory of it warms me and gives me hope when I begin to despair that the world is irredeemably terrible and that people are fraught with evil and not worth getting to know, and so loneliness is the only option. The Lord is preparing a banquet table for us. I may not catch many more glimpses of it in this life, but it is something real that I can look forward to with joyful anticipation.

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