My husband and I met in seminary. Britt was a member of the West Ohio Conference and I was a member of the Western Pennsylvania Conference. Once we’d decided to marry, we knew we would have a big decision to make about who would transfer their conference membership. (It seemed like such a big deal at the time. Yet today, ironically, neither of us are a member of either of those conferences!)
There were lots of factors that went into the decision, especially consideration of family and travel. But the decision was also influenced by a dinner. Once a year representatives of the conferences visited the seminaries to meet with the students from their conference. I believe it was the fall after Britt’s and my wedding that a pastor from Western PA came to visit United. His first name was Dick. I don’t even remember his last name. Generally, the representative/s would meet with students over two days and on the evening of the first day, treat the students from their conference to dinner at a local restaurant for a time of fellowship and camaraderie. I always looked forward to it. I like to eat. I like to eat good food. And when you’re a poor seminary student, you don’t get many opportunities to eat good restaurant food. So I was disappointed when I discovered that Dick’s evening out with the seminarians was on an evening when both Britt and I had class. So much for a nice dinner. But when Dick found out we had class that evening, he offered to stay an extra day and have dinner with just Britt and me the subsequent evening.
As Britt and I arrived at the restaurant, Dick was already at the table. He stood and shook our hands. As we sat down, he said, “I’m so glad we have this opportunity to break bread together. I was really looking forward to it.” Then he prayed. We had a wonderful visit. He was so excited for Britt’s and my new marriage, the fact that we were reaching the end of our seminary journey, and excited for the many years of ministry ahead of us. He sincerely seemed to take joy and delight in our young lives, our love and our call. He wasn’t in any hurry to get out of the restaurant. He encouraged us to order whatever we wanted off the menu. That evening’s dinner was incredibly joyful and celebrative.
Hospitality and celebration always seem to go hand in hand. This Sunday I’ll be preaching the story of Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana. When I was kid, I thought it was so silly that Jesus would waste his divine power on turning water into wine. But the miracle wasn’t really about the beverage; it was about the celebration. Abundant wine and food were the basic ingredients for hospitality, fellowship and celebration.
In Dostoevsky’s classic, “The Brothers Karamazov,” there is a scene where Aloysha is mourning the passing of his loving mentor, Father Zosima. As he is grieving and crying, he hears in the background someone reading the story of Jesus’ miracle in Cana. And, as he does, he has a sudden realization. Aloysha, listening to the story, reflects: “…indeed was it to make wine abundant at poor weddings he had come down to earth? And yet he… worked his first miracle to help men’s gladness… For the one who loves us, loves our gladness, too.” In other words, Aloysha recognizes, it wasn’t about wine. This miracle was about people – even the poorest – having the opportunity to celebrate and be glad… together. God cares about our gladness because God loves us!
This Sunday at http://www.trinitylafayette.org we are celebrating Fusion Sunday. Fusion, itself, is a celebration. Our once a month gathering always includes a meal: we break bread, we fellowship, we share our stories and our hearts with one another. Attending Fusion always brings me joy. It must bring God joy also since God loves our gladness.
Join us at our next Fusion on Monday, March 16, 6 p.m., when our storyteller will be Mike Herzog. To learn more about Fusion, join us for Sunday worship at 10:30 on March 8 or go to http://www.trinitylafayette.org/fusion.html or https://www.facebook.com/TrinityFusion/
Learn more about Mike at http://www.mikeherzog.com
[Listen to my recent sermon podcasts at http://www.trinitylafayette.org/sermons and check out my new book, Companions on the Journey: Foundational Spiritual Practices at https://wipfandstock.com/companions-on-the-journey.html or view links on my home page]