Feast of Love
Late afternoon sunlight streamed in through the open door, flooding the room with a glow that was matched by the luminous faces of those assembled around the room. There were 12 of them in total, in groups of two or three, either engaged in lively conversation with their neighbours, or praying quietly for one another, hands held and voices low. Laughter, light and refreshing as a soft summer breeze, along with the savoury aromas of the meal that they had shared, drifted through the air, completing the perfect scene; a feast for all the senses. The time had come for some to leave, yet all seemed reluctant to say goodbye.
Milah stood in the doorway, drinking it all in. She relished these times when they were all together. She felt completed somehow, as though having them here brought the Master’s presence as well. It seemed so long ago that she had stood before Him, struck dumb by what had just taken place.
Smiling at the memory, she slowly shuffled across the room, settling onto a chair, and set her cane aside. “Milah!” said Joseph, a young boy from the neighborhood. “Tell us again. Tell us about the Master again”. This was followed by a chorus of other voices, urging her to repeat once more the events of that day, years ago.
Milah laughed, eyes sparkling and wrinkling at the corners, pleased to be able to recount her tale. About to begin, she paused as a shadow appeared in the doorway.
“Oh, I am sorry to interrupt,” said the elderly man as he stood, empty wooden bowl in hand, seeming unsure of how to proceed. “I only wanted to return your bowl from the other day. Thank you for the stew. It was very good, and kind of you.”
“Please, come in! Take a seat, and join us.” answered Milah. She indicated the empty space beside her, and, hesitating for only a moment, he took a seat there.
“How have you been? We haven’t seen you out in a couple of days.” She was pleased that he had agreed to join them. He had recently lost his wife, and she had been attempting to draw him out, so that they could minister to him. His wife had come to believe just a few months before she died, but Balen, her husband, had refused to hear anything at all about the Master, or the new life that He could give.
“Oh well, sometimes I just feel too tired to go anywhere. It’s easier just to stay in the house, and rest. I suppose I am still getting used to Ruth being gone.” He was startled to find his eyes welling up, as Milah put her hand over his.
“Yes, we can understand that. You were together for so long. Of course you will miss her greatly. Please, we are your friends. Let us know if ever you need anything, even just to sit and talk. We are here for you. We loved your wife, and we love you too.” Her words were gentle caresses to his grieving heart. She gave his hand a squeeze before she took hers away.
After a brief moment of silence while they all paused in their conversations, Candace, a young woman in her twenties, began to sing a Psalm about the loving-kindness of the Lord. Her clear, sweet voice was soon augmented by the voices of all present. All but Balen’s. He sat quietly while they sang words that threatened to pierce his heart with their beauty.
What a strange folk they were! All so happy and full of joy. Yet he knew the circumstances of each one. They were poor, as poor or more poor than he was. It remained a puzzle to him. And his wife, after she had come to believe as they did, took on a peaceful, composed demeanor, even to her last moments. In fact, on her deathbed she had displayed a quiet excitement, as she anticipated finally seeing the One that she had come to love and believe in. He couldn’t understand it, yet there had been growing in him a desperate desire to possess the thing that had transformed her, and these others. He knew they were all gathered there, had heard the chatter and the singing that had gone on for several hours. Returning the bowl provided the perfect excuse to come over and try to find out the explanation for the hope that they all had within them.
After the singing, several of those present offered words of praise and thanksgiving to their Lord. Then two of the women got up and cleared the remaining dishes away from the table, including the halves of the loaf and the goblet that they had passed as they had remembered the Master.
“Now then, where was I?” said Milah and proceeded with her tale. Each man, woman and child present sat in attentive stillness, devouring every word as she described the moment she had touched the hem of His cloak, and the feeling, unlike anything she had ever known before, that had raced through her body, before she realized that the flow that had debilitated her for those long years had ceased. Eyes closed, and, as if she were beholding Him again, she told of looking into His face, and seeing His eyes flashing with love and joy, as He waited for her to speak, and watched the look of amazement on her face. “Your faith has made you well,” He had said quietly as He cupped her cheek with a warm, tender hand. Her tears had begun then, and He wiped them away as she struggled to find the words to thank Him.
So had begun her journey of faith. She had followed Him from that moment on, and others had joined her. She had lost count of the many tiny bands of believers that had spread throughout that part of the city, all stemming from that one act of healing. Many lives had been transformed, and they had settled into a rhythm of sharing and celebrating, joyfully awaiting the time when Jesus would return.
Their lives intertwined, they met together as often as they could, sharing whatever food they had. These times were rich with songs of praise and thanksgiving, prayers, and learning from one another. And then there were the visitors who came, bearing copies of precious letters from those holy men, many of whom had actually walked with Him. These letters they cherished, and read and read again, never tiring of hearing the instructions, admonishments and encouraging words that they contained.
As always, when she finished her testimony of how Jesus had healed her, tears glistened on her face. She prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, giving glory to the God that had healed her and saved her from her sins. Again, others joined in with words of praise and thanksgiving. Hearts were full, and once more they sang a Psalm, this one blessing the name of God for His mighty works, and for His salvation.
Balen had not moved during all this time. Inside his chest, his heart was pounding as though it would burst. Events from his life paraded through his mind, memories long forgotten, of hurts, disappointments, guilt, shame, and loneliness. And now, though he had never seen this Messiah, it was as though he could see Him! He could see those eyes that Milah had described, and they were looking at him with such love and understanding, looking right into his very soul. And Balen knew, he knew what it was that this strange group possessed. Only it wasn’t a thing, it was a person. It was this Jesus. And Balen knew he had to have Him too, knew he needed Him as much as a man dying of thirst needs a drink of water.
Finally he could remain quiet no longer. “How can I know Him?” he asked, his voice low and desperate. “I must know Him!” Milah’s words were a gentle interruption in the sudden silence that followed. “Why, you have only to believe!” she said, taking his hands in hers, and looking into his eyes. Others around the room nodded, and began to pray for this old man who had recognized his need. Gently they spoke to him, and explained the way of eternal life. His heart broken by grace, he bowed his head and, weeping, reached out to this Jesus, this Messiah, and finally knew peace.
Later, as Milah watched the last visitor leave, she prayed again, thanking God for widening the circle, praising Him for His mercy. Slowly she readied herself for bed, and blew out the lamp, tears of joy and thanksgiving still wet on her cheeks.