Though the cool September air is sneaking in I’m holding on to the memory of a summer night reunited with Barbora. The first time I met Barbora (then a university student from Slovakia,) she was working in my neighborhood flower nursery digging into a mound of rich potting soil. By the end of our conversation that day I had invited this newly wed and her unseen husband for dinner. That was eight years ago. Once complete strangers, God wove a surprising friendship between us in those few years before they returned to Slovakia. We shared meals, celebrated the birth of their first child & helped in a time of crisis. This was not a one-sided relationship. The friendship grew as we mutually discovered our two worlds coming together.
This summer Barbora returned to Minnesota for a visit…. alone. After the birth of their second child her marriage crumbled under the crushing weight of her husband’s alcohol abuse. Her 10-day visit was an opportunity to rest and reset her life while her mom took care of her children.
What made this 2014 summer evening so intensely sweet? Friendship True friends let each other in. They share joys and sorrows. Our “reunion” over grilled flank steak and fried rice brought laughter and tears. We moved from catching up on casual details to fears, questions and desires of the heart. We embraced the gift of the moment flowing from the history of the past and ended our evening with prayerful hope for the future. Friendship!
This meal with Barbora drives me to think again of how & why Jesus lived table life. His public ministry of preaching and teaching the gospel to large crowds was absolutely essential. But it was hospitality that accentuated the gospel by creating lifelines of true FRIENDSHIP. I believe Jesus prioritized the table as a place to cultivate FRIENDSHIP.
Jesus himself said, “You are my friends, if you do what I command. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know his master’s business. Rather, I call you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I made know to you.” (John 15: 14-15) Jesus “let others in” on his greatest love: his Father—and his greatest passion: to save sinners…. at the table! Celebrating the Passover with his disciples, eating a meal with Zaccheaus, feasting with Matthew, Jesus gave FRIENDSHIP.
Barbora brought us the generous gift of a rare bottle of poppy seed oil. I can’t imagine oil being pressed out of tiny poppy seeds. But the Slovakians have done it. Scripture portrays oil as an expression of God’s presence and blessing. Every day we walk past people hungry for true FRIENDSHIP. We can’t offer FRIENDSHIP to everyone, but there is someone whom God is preparing for you and your table. It might even be a nursery worker watering the mums you plan to buy this fall.
P.S. Looking ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas…keep in mind the opportunity of giving the gift of a copy of Table Life, easy to order on Amazon. All proceeds go to a rescue ministry in India.