Greenville is our city, and of course I hope it goes on forever too. Of all the things I'll miss about Greenville (and about life in general) when my time is up, having friends over to our home for dinner is one of the most dear. It takes time to plan and time to shop and time to cook and time to clean up, but the time is always paid back in the merry moments we share. When the work is done, and the kids are served, and we adults gather at the table - finally - it is heaven.
"A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends" from Douglas McKelvey's Every Moment Holy calls these gathering times "acts of war." I never think about fighting back the darkness when I'm chopping onions and peppers, but maybe I should. The tears I cry over the onions are earthly tears, reminding me that these ordinary moments of eating with friends are eternal because we gather to break bread and drink wine together as the Lord wanted us to do. We remember that we are not alone, and we are grateful to be seen and heard. We are wanted and we are welcomed by our friends. And we never want this night, or these conversations, to end.
For the hundred and tenth time since moving to our current house, we will host friends tomorrow night, and for the first time, I will pass out copies of this liturgy for us to read together. I don't know if the kids will think it too long, but for me, it will not be long enough. It will be a moment to stop and say thank you that God has given us these friends, these rich blessings of both food and fellowship, this soul feast that is almost more than our little lives can contain.
But there is work to do first. The shopping happened this morning, and soon there will be a little green list similar to this one that takes me through the steps for the dinner preparation leading up to everyone's arrival.
Step after step, chop after chop, the afternoon hours will pass in preparation, and I'll walk outside around five o'clock for a breath of fresh air before the friends arrive. I'll give the chickens their scraps and collect the few eggs we're getting each short day now. And then I'll go back inside and finish the meal and watch the sky turn dark and wait to see the headlights and hear the happy voices.
It is what I do, and what I like to do. It gives me purpose and hope on a Thursday to know we have friends who will soon be among us. Ten kids together will be too noisy and too messy, but this is the noise and mess of heaven. This is why we are here, to make a place for one another, to give grace to one another, to set sacred space for one another. (And one another's kids, for that matter.) The food will fill us, but the friendships will carry us through life. And this is only the beginning.