"On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined."
ISAIAH 25:6 (ESV)
I’m sure that we have all heard sermons around this vision of a heavenly banquet set before us by the Lord. Eugene Peterson is, as usual, more fulsome -
But here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies will throw a feast for all the people of the world, a feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines, a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts...”
Isaiah 25:6 (MSG)
To apply the metaphor of a meal to Christian education...
for some Christian schools the meal being prepared is a family meal. Whether simple fare or a celebration the meal table is a place around which the family gathers, deep relationships are fostered, family traditions established and maintained. It can be a place of joy or sadness, but a meal where the individual tastes and food preferences are known, where a favourite dish can be presented and enjoyed. The common shared history means that the nourishment and sustenance comes not only from the meal itself but from meals past shared together and the anticipation of meals together into the future.
Other Christian schools prepare a meal for those outside the household. It is not a better meal but a different one, a banquet that seeks to attract people to the table to eat. The food must be attractive enough to be enticing, but sustaining enough that people will leave feeling nourished and wanting to return.
For some, the critical issue is ensuring that the food is prepared properly. Prepared by experts with a passion for what they do. Understanding the balancing of flavours and ingredients and seasoning the meal with love and care. A meal made in this way will surely entice and delight those who chose to come and eat.
Anybody who has catered for a crowd though will understand that amongst those invited there will inevitably be people with an allergy or intolerance. Maybe the meal originally planned with not be suitable. Preparation with love and skill may be insufficient if it is not gluten free or contains nuts. We certainly don’t want to kill or injury our guests!
The carnivores, omnivores and even flexitarians...
...might be fine with carefully rubbed, slow BBQed meats that have been cooking for ten hours to be presented to guests, and everyone will certainly get their daily iron requirements. Should we, however, also ensure that a vegetarian option is provided for at the table? What about strict vegans? Will they be welcomed to the meal and have food to eat? If they have food to eat, will it be at the main table or separately, in a special corner of the room?
By now the table is truly overflowing! A rich variety of food is arrayed across the table, but then you are asked if the meal is Kosher or Halal – not issues you have considered, so those asking walk away to eat elsewhere.
Next you are asked about the origins of the food on the table. Is it GMO? Is it certified organic? Can you confirm for your guests the “food miles” involved, and would you be open to changing suppliers to ones they are more comfortable using as they are more aligned with the values of the guests?
Whoever thought that a simple meal could become so complex – and we haven’t even contemplated the impact of food safety standards, food handling requirements and the need for a COVIDSafe plan. Food reviews, restaurant ratings and customer reviews would also take things to a whole new level.
Of course, preparing a meal is simple compared to governing or leading a Christian school...
...but I think that the metaphor might be worth exploring and thinking about in the context of our Christian schools:
Who are you seeking to invite to your table?
For whom is God calling you to prepare a meal?
Is it enough to simply present a nourishing meal prepared with love and skill or is it more complicated?
How do we cater for those with dietary needs?
Are you being called to cater for those who are just "fussy eaters"?
May God continue to nourish and sustain you in your leadership in Christian education.