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Volume 16, Issue 5: Childer

The Cheese Course

Douglas Wilson

One of the great blessings God has given our extended family is the blessing of the Sabbath dinner. We observe the Lord's Day from 6 pm Saturday night to 6 pm Sunday night, and we begin our observance of that day by gathering our extended clan, our boarders, and any company we might have, and sitting down for the celebratory meal of the week.

Because we have this meal Saturday night, my wife is able to prepare the meal through the course of the day on Saturday, and when the food is hot and ready to go, the sabbath begins. There are now seventeen of us in our extended tribe, and we have four boarders living with us, and we frequently have company. This is quite a challenge for the size of our table, but thus far it has promoted what we may call close fellowship. But recently we bought one of those Amish-style tables that extend out to eighteen feet, and we anticipate that we might be able to get more food on the table, and more people around it.
Our liturgy is relatively simple when we are not in a holiday season like Advent—times we are still learning to celebrate with even greater rejoicing.
With an ordinary Sabbath dinner, we begin by welcoming any new guests to our table. "Susannah, Michael, welcome to our table." The wine glasses have all been filled beforehand, and so I raise my glass and say, "This is the day that the Lord has made." Everyone else responds to the toast by lifting their glasses saying, "We will rejoice and be glad in it." After we have honored the day, we offer up our prayer to God, asking Him to bless our celebration, and to thank Him for all that He has bestowed on us. After the prayer, I give a blessing for my wife, which the children help me say. May her house always have seven pillars and may she always mix her wine with wisdom. Next is a blessing for the children. Happy are the people whose God is the Lord. May our sons flourish like saplings, grown up in their youth, and may our daughters be as columns, sculpted in the palace style. Then the grandchildren all stand on their chairs (or in their high chairs, as the case may be) and they answer their sabbath catechism questions. The first set they answer all together. "Do you love God?" Yes! "Are you baptized?" Yes!
Is Jesus in your heart? Yes! "Will you take the Lord's Supper tomorrow?" Yes!
Then the children are asked questions individually. "Knox, what day is it?" "It's the Lord's Day." "Jemma, why is it the Lord's Day?" "Because Jesus rose from the dead." "Bel, what kind of day is it?" "It is a sweet day." "Rory, who rose from the dead on the first Lord's Day?" "Jesus." And so on, with the sleeping infants conked out in their buckets merely asked if they agree.
When the catechism questions are over, we sing a psalm or the Gloria Patri, and we turn to the meal, which is generally spectacular, which it has to be to keep up with the cook. The meal is one of thorough enjoyment, happy conversation, and holy hubbub. The food, the wine, the rolls and honey butter are all acclaimed, and are all teaching the children (not to mention the rest of us) what the Sabbath is actually about. The Lord's Day does not proclaim a gospel of starvation rations, but rather a gospel of grace that is no less abundant than it is free. The God who saves sinners is not parsimonious. The God who sent His Son to die is not a God who then stints with the lesser things. To the extent that He blesses us with any material blessings, we are to honor Him with those things particularly on the Lord's Day. The sabbath is a feast day, not a day for fasting.
For a while after our kids had visited France, we included a short cheese course. (There is a cheese that is made here on the Palouse which serves particularly well.) Out of all the foods God gives us, cheese is certainly one of the strangest, and it is probably the most under-appreciated. Chesterton once commented that the poets had been singularly silent on the subject of cheese. But what a glory!
Dessert is wheeled out while children of various ages attempt to wait for the hostess to take first bite. After this, the adults work their way out to the living room for fellowship and visiting, and the children frequently go downstairs to the big family room for some terry-hooting.
What is all of this? It is preparation for worship. And what is worship? It is preparation for the heavenly banquet, to which we are all called and invited. At the right hand of God, where we are going, there are pleasures forever more. We, who are going to a place of endless joy, need to think more than we do about getting in shape. How can we sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at that great banquet if we never have known how to sit down in any banquet? God calls us to weekly training in the arts of joy.

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