I grew up in a fairly small North Dakota community where everyone knew everyone. Or at least it seemed like everyone did. So when I went off to college, I was a little nervous about meeting new people and making new friends. Luckily God blessed me with amazing friends who were always there for me. However when I decided to go to seminary, hours away from home, I was even more scared. I remember walking onto that campus praying that I would make new friends quickly.
Those first days of seminary were very difficult. I remember one instance in particular, when I finally got the nerve to speak up during class and was immediately shot down by another classmate! (Funny thing is we later became dear friends and she apologized for her actions that day) Needless to say, I spent the next days keeping very quiet.
During one of our other opening classes, we watched the movie “Chocolat” We only watched a portion of the movie that day, so some new classmates decided that we should rent the movie and watch it together that evening. I said that I would bring a cake to share as it was my birthday. I went to the grocery store and purchased the cake. (My friends later did apologize for making me buy my own birthday cake, but that cake taught me so much about friendship and fellowship!)
Later that evening, we gathered and watched the movie together. As we watched the movie, the smell of cake wafted through the room. Finally the movie ended so we cut into the cake. As I was cutting into the cake, I remember my new friends Mark and Mike commenting on how they had been smelling that cake all through the movie.
Moments later, we decided to have a little fun. I don’t remember who suggested it, but someone said we should eat this cake with our hands. So the spoons and forks were immediately put down and we literally dug into that cake with our hands. Soon uncontrollable laughter errupted. It is one of my favorite memories from my seminary days because it reminds me that we are all created to be in relationship and to get to know one another.
Those friends are still to this day some of my best friends in the world. We have wiped each other’s tears during difficult times. Like that first night, we have laughed together many times. We also have celebrated together. Even though the miles separate us now, we still pick up right where we left off the last time we were together. It is a gift of friendship and fellowship that I am continually reminded not to take for granted.
Last summer, I read the book “Bread and Wine” by Shauna Niequest. In the book, Niequest reminds us of the power of “breaking bread together” wherever that may be. Now she does not mean “breaking bread” literally, but rather simply means taking the time to get to know one another; to celebrate our joys and to mourn together in our sorrows; and to remember that each and every one of us is called to be in relationship together.
Relationships are hard work. They are not easy. Yet God calls us into relationship with one another; to get to know each other; to hear each other’s stories because our stories tell a lot about who and whose we are. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by author Brene Brown. She states “The bravest thing you’ll ever do is tell your story.” I believe that it is hard to know each other’s stories if we don’t get to know one another through worship and fellowship.
So how might we do a better job of welcoming all God’s people to the holy table and to worship together with us? How might we invite others into fellowship so we can grow and learn and embrace each other as who God created us to be?
Think of the many ways we might bless someone if we simply took the time for fellowship together. If I hadn’t bought my own birthday cake so I could join in fellowship with these individuals, they may never have become my friends. Yet that is exactly what happened.
How might you invite someone to fellowship here in our own community of faith?