Summary: That all are invited to the Wedding Banquet, to the Feast, but will you accept the invitation and dress for the wedding?
Have you seen the commercial that asks, ”What’s America cooking up for Dinner?” (of course beef). This commercial superimposes an American idea that our favorite meal is beef. (Not arguing against it, and those connected with the beef industry would certainly applaud this commercial). Like that commercial, another one suggests that the “fabric of our lives is cotton” it represents to us our value, or rather what we are to value, what we wear, what we like. I would rather say that the fabric of our life is faith, and what are we cooking up for dinner, but home cooked Christian values. This past week I got to thinking about whenever my family made trips to visit my mothers family in Tennessee. At roadside stands you can get delicious BBQ sandwiches. Not necessarily the chopped beef sandwiches that you get at Lum’s or Coopers, BBQ pork sandwiches, and they were really good with Coleslaw on them. The best were in a slummy neighborhood of Nashville, at Charlie Nicken’s BBQ. One time, I remember mom and us kids were locked in the car while dad was inside Charlie Nicken’s and a drunken black man tried his best to enter our car. Fortunately dad returned with the BBQ in time to save the day.
Bishop Charlene Kammerer of North Carolina preached a sermon this year at General Conference in Pittsburgh, called “Legacy of Faith”. In it she tells a story of the legacy of Henry Evans. He left Southern Virginia in 1775 to make his way to Charleston, SC. A cobbler by trade, African American born free in America, was also a Methodist. When he got to Fayetteville, NC he was astounded at the lack of spiritual formation of slaves and free blacks like himself. He could not proceed the Charleston without first preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. His preaching though, began attracting crowds, and he was soon banned from preaching by the white authorities.
But Mr. Evans under deep conviction, and being a good Methodist moved the meetings to the nearby wooded sand hills. The sand provided a perfect place for a bed of coals, and whole pigs were roasted for those who might grow hungry. Word got out and the white folks began searching for the locations to break up the meetings. On one of their searches they discovered a clearing, freshly tromped down and a whole hog, fully cooked. The vigilante’s tried the roasted pig. Whether it was the smell of BBQ or the noticeable change in the slaves lives, Mr. Henry Evans was soon invited to preach in town, and a church was built for him. The Evans Metropolitan African American Episcopal Zion Church (original African Meeting House) still exist in Fayetteville, NC. Bishop Kammerer noted, somewhere in the area it is said that a church was named Barbecue Presbyterian, though she added that North Carolina United Methodist had never elevated their taste for pork to such a high praise!” (see sermon). Bishop William Capers wrote of him: (3) “Henry Evans, who was confessedly the father of the Methodist Church, white and black, in Fayetteville, and the best preacher of his time in that quarter; and he was so remarkable as to have become the greatest curiosity of the town; insomuch that distinguished visitors hardly felt that they might pass a Sunday in Fayetteville without hearing him preach.”
Inspired by this story, I did a little research and found that the actual Barbecue Presbyterian Church was formed on Barbecue Creek at the home of John Dobbins. Barbecue Creek was near Buie Creek (Archibald Buie) on the Cape Fear River under Rev. James Campbell who preached to this Scottish Gaelic speaking community. Buie Creek and the Barbecue Presbyterian Church, was located about halfway between Fayetteville and Raleigh, and Northeast of Fort Bragg and the sandhills. This church may have had little to do with the story of Henry Evans except a commonality of the fact that these early American settlers liked the gospel and barbecue.
Okay Pastor, so why are you telling us stories about early Presbyterian and Methodist preachers, and all this talk about food is making me hungry?!? And what does this have to do with the Scripture lesson? So here’s the deal! No doubt the feast has been prepared by God. Jesus compared the Kingdom to that of a feast or a banquet. The guest invited. But the original guests refused to come. So he sent out some other servants “Hey the choice meats have been cooked” (We’ve got Barbecue Pork and Coleslaw). But this time they not only refused but they beat or killed the servants. So he sent the servants out to invite everyone they see: black, slave, free, Scottish gaelic, back-woodsy, uppty townsfolk, “the good and bad alike” and the banquet hall was filled with guests.