Food is one of the primary reasons I love to travel.
Food brings people together.
There's a reason Jesus chose to use food (and the two most basic elements of his culture's food) when He asked us to remember Him - He wants to be a part of every moment of our lives.
Yesterday we had some really good food.
Kamal invited us to dinner last night. He has been the bus driver for Jim's groups for almost 30 years. He is a Palestinian Christian who lives on the Mount of Olives and could likely trace his Christian heritage back to the disciples. Kamal is also known as our best friend in Israel.
This is our third time to stay at Kibbutz Ein Gev's Holiday Village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee while traveling with Jim over the years. Each time Kamal has invited us to dinner one night, and we were thrilled to receive our third invitation. He had a friend bring some excellent lamb and chicken from Jerusalem and he overflowed with joy to invite us to dinner. Though we have dined with Kamal regularly over the past week or so while traveling with the group, it was important for him to have the opportunity to prepare and serve a meal for us. Hospitality - a love language we should all seek to master.
We went to purchase a bottle of wine to bring as an acceptable cultural offering in return for the hospitality; wine is still a basic element of a meal in these parts, as it was for Jesus when He ate here. We dreaded paying the inflated price of the gift shop (the only option available). No worries. A lady from the group saw us, led us out of the store, and presented a bottle they had previously purchased for us as a surprise gift. Sweet Providence.
Many people debate the meaning of the reference "break bread" in scripture...let's be clear, it's how they eat their meals in this land that Jesus walked.
Bread is taken, broken to start the meal, and dipped into shared plates of hummus, salad, dips, olive oil, filled with meat and/or all of the above. It's community eating, there are no individual plates or silent focusing on your own food. You're eating WITH each other - passing plates that are out of reach, dipping bread for each other, laughing when food drips down someone's shirt or when hands collide as you dip into the same plate at the same time. It's community at its best, and no one goes hungry.
Let's just say, my body apparently still fails to share my affection for bread...but now that I'm feeling a little better - it was totally worth it.
I remembered Christ as I never knew Him before as we broke bread, and shared the fruit of the vine together. It was an environment that I doubt has changed much over the many years, and one I felt HIS presence surround.
This was one of the best meals I've ever eaten, and not just because Kamal can grill meat better than any, or because the lamb was marinated and blended with some of the most exquisite mediterranean spices in the world. It was because we, a young, white, Christian couple from the U.S. were able to break bread with a Palestinian Christian, an Arab Muslim and another Palestinian whose religious background I missed. It was because we came together for food, and found so much more - as often seems to happen to those who share a meal together.
We refused to allow the political borders of current, temporary countries to define our ability or inability to interact. We talked of family, of language difficulties, of human suffering, of seeking GOD. Such fellowship across "lines" is not always possible, especially in this tense land, and so is all the sweeter when it is found. It is a refreshing gift to remember that we all hunger and thirst for all the same things, that we are in this together, that the only true citizenship is in Heaven, and we are all on a mission to learn how to give and receive Love. Everything else is shockingly meaningless, yet occupies our focus in crippling ways. May the GOD Who is Love heal our blindness.
May the LORD bless you to extend and receive the joys of hospitality with those you know, or need to know, whether stranger or friend. From experience, I'd highly recommend the joys of communing with those as completely different from you as possible. We fear the unknown, and fear can steal life more quickly than death. It's good to remember how alike we all are, made in the image of the same Creator GOD, whether we all know it yet or not.