LOVE FEAST October 6, 2013
It was 40 years ago when I had my first experience of an Agape Feast:
** at a church conference foe Sunday School teachers
**describe circles—crusty loaf of bread—water—passing elements
darkened room—candle in center.
In the past several years I have shared in numerous Agape Feasts in Howick, Riverfield, Huntingdon and Dundee. And each service was different and each one was a meaningful expression of selfless LOVE.
I think it is being revived in many small churches today, especially in rural areas, probably due to lack of ordained clergy available for formal Communion services.
The ritual of love feasts goes far back in the Jewish history.
The three major celebrations found in the Hebrew scripture and are still practiced today are:
**The Feast of Weeks—giving of the 10 Commandments.
and presenting the first fruits to the temple.
**The Feast of Booths—thanksgiving, especially for God’s protection during 40 years in the wilderness.
**The Feast of the Passover—deliverance from bondage, given freedom.
All these Jewish festivals involved a love feast, a meal celebrating God’s selfless love for his people.
In Genesis we read of the importance of being hospitable to everyone who passes you by. The 3 strangers came by Abraham’s tent and he insisted that they eat with them and goes out of his way to make them feel at home.
In the Book of Acts, we are given a glimpse the early church community, the action of an intimate group of believers --All share their processions-- pray together-- live together-- and give thanks and eat and drink together in love feasts.
AGAPE is the Greek word for LOVE, particularly applied to selfless Love and such meals were widespread in the early Christian Church.
So it’s no surprise that simple Love Feast (as the Agape service was called) was practiced in the early Protestant Churches.
The service comes from the tradition of the Protestant Moravian Church. Love Feasts were celebrated to affirm the unity of Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ.
As the congregation sings the women diners enter, carrying baskets of "Moravian buns," a slightly sweetened dinner role about the size of a hamburger bun. These baskets are passed up and down the pews.
Next comes the coffee. This time the female and male diners enter with Cups of coffee, laced with sugar and cream, are then passed down the pews a cup at a time.
When everyone has been served-----sometimes as many as 400 people the pastor stands and leads the congregation in the "Moravian Blessing." and then proceeded with their Communion Service.
John Wesley the founder of Methodism greatly admired the Moravian’s faith in 1742 he introduced the Love Feast to the Methodist Church. As there was a lack of ordained ministers within Methodism, the Love Feast took on a life of its own, as there were few opportunities to take communion.
So you can see this is not something new or never been done in church before, you can see it has a long history.
When we look at Jesus’ life we immediately see he recognized food was a common need, and many of the most dramatic moments of JESUS’ life involve meals.
What are of the stories of Jesus where a MEAL was central to the story, can you remember?
**ROAD TO EMMAUS--After his resurrection, Jesus walks with two followers along the road to Emmaus and sat down for a meal. During the blessing of the food, they recognized who he was.
**ZACKESUS-- the tax collector. In recruiting him as a follower, Jesus when to his house for refreshments. Recall the song Going to your house for tea..
**FEEDING THE 5000-- once again mealtime was central to the story.
** making wine---dining with sinners.
**The Last Supper—In last weeks announcements Karen called our celebration AGAPE COMMUNION. Let’s think about the Last Supper, here Jesus and his disciples were eating and enjoying a meal together—having an AGAPE FEAST—to celebrate THE PASSOVER. During the meal Jesus took common elements they were sharing, bread and wine, and proposed a toast to remember him after his death and resurrection.
We see the close link between Communion and the AGAPE FEAST. It gives us a celebration to remind us of God’s love for each one of us and our love for each other.
Think for a moment how many events in our lives include a meal:
Funerals—marriages—church suppers—luncheons—anniversaries—birthdays—retirement—golf tournaments—even the bridge group at our house ends with a gathering at the table.
WHY? because eating allows us to relax.—to let lose--It gives us a chance to talk to each other—to let down our hair!
I just have to think of what goes on in our house, when the entire family gets together, to know the importance of mealtime.
There are--Quiet discussions,-- fixed opinions, --heated arguments—lots of laughter-- all happen when we sit down to share a meal together. What about your mealtime ?
Other important things I can think of are:
-warmth of touching one another--maybe it’s rubbing elbows
-The taste and smells make us anxious to get started
-The tenderness shown in the preparation.
-The togetherness felt in the cleanup.
Food and drink are the essentials for life, and there is no better way to express our selfless love than having an Agape Feast.
Our rapid changing world warrants that our church maintain our meals together not just Agape ritual feasts, but also the coffee time after church and the suppers and luncheons.
As families get smaller—seniors find themselves alone--people live further apart--Busy schedules--Financial demands—global trade—climate change—fresh water—increasing poverty.
All these changes make this church family more important as the vehicle to bring HOPE, LOVE and CARING to each others lives!!
William Willimon, in his book “Worship as Pastoral Care” makes a sharp observation:
**You have heard it said that the family that prays together stays together. I say to you that the family that eats together stays together.
**He asks “Could the contemporary breakdown of many of our families be attributed to our families’ so rarely eating together?”
**Think how much more basic is this table fellowship for the family of God. Something sacred happens to people who have shared food and drink.
**Wow! . What an incredible thought! “Something sacred happens to people who have shared food and drink.”
This morning we share in an Agape meal or commonly called a Love Feast. We will be using the elements of APPLE SLICES AND GRAPES and apple juice: I sincerely hope everyone will find it a meaningful expression of your love of God and our love for each other as a community of Faith.
Let us start by singing verses I & 2 of the hymn “Let us break bread together.”
Let us pray:
Dear Lord as we gather around your table to partake in this love feast, we ask you to fill our hearts and minds with your presence. Help us to feel your Spirit moving amongst us as we pass food and drink to each other.
May the love we have for our neighbours and our community be enhanced through the sharing of this meal and we will leave Your table refreshed and filled with your Love. AMEN
It is important that each of us participate in this meal and to pass on love to the member sitting beside you. I encourage you to eat and drink as you receive the elements.
As we pass the apple slices and grapes to each other I would like you to say to the person next to you:
“God loves you and so do I.”
As we pass the tray of apple juice, I would like you to say to your neighbour, sitting beside you,
“I’m glad you’re here this morning.”
Let us pray:
Lord we are glad to be here and share in this Agape Love Feast.
It symbolizes our love for you and for each other and your everlasting Love for each of us. As we were sharing in this your table we could feel your Spirit pulsing through our bodies. Help us to take your love out into the wider communities where we work and play and be a joy to all we meet. AMEN
Let us continue singing Verses 3 of the hymn “Let us brake read together”
CLOSING HYMN: Seek Ye First # 625