We were making pasta. Fresh, from scratch. The only way to truly make pasta.
It was Friday night.
We had friends over.
I know, I know. You don’t just invite people to your home. First you have coffee, then perhaps you could meet somewhere at a restaurant and later, much later you could consider inviting them over.
We’re not like that though.
‘Come over, let’s have dinner, why not tomorrow night, we’ll make pasta together’, that’s us.
So they came.
Quite brave they are.
And we made pasta together, flour flying all over the place. Everyone enjoying it. The conversation light and exploratory. Discovering where we all grew up, how we came to live where we do, how we met our partners and where the kids go to school.
The easy questions.
The safe ones.
With predictable answers.
After all, if you ask someone ‘where do your kids go to school?’, you don’t expect that someone to say ‘no they don’t go to school.’
That was a conversation all on its own & should have prepared our new friends for more answers which do not conform to expected tradition.
‘We home school the tribe and no they’re not ADD or ADHD or anything of that sort. No it isn’t for religious reasons. No it isn’t because we want to isolate them from reality. It happened by accident, like many things in our life and it worked out well, or so we think. We’ll see eventually. It is a bit of a human experiment. We have no guarantees, but then do you ever have any guarantees?’
The pasta was ready. Zuko made a fabulous salad with fresh organic vegetables. broccoli, chick-peas, rocket, baby spinach, tomatoes, watercress, yellow green-pepper, spring onions and coriander. Butter was melting on fresh rolls fashioned from stone ground flour, honey and olive oil.
Steaming bowls of food doused the conversation for a moment and then our one guest innocently asks, ‘so are you Christians?’
The easy thing to do, what anyone else might have done, would be to simply say ‘yes’ and move on to the next day’s activities or the previous day’s weather.
But what would a ‘yes’ communicate?
What, for them, is woven into this single word?
‘I don’t know’, I say.
‘I suppose it depends on what you mean with Christian?’
It could mean many things.
It could mean someone who grew up in a westernized environment, immersed in western culture, sold-out to the idea of subjecting people and planet and ‘ruling’ over it, without regard for consequence or future.
It could mean someone who is immensely certain of their convictions, who is convinced he has all the answers and in ‘black and white’-terms judges other people’s’ choices. Lesbians, divorcees, rich people and poor people, homosexuals, thieves and murderers, neatly marginalized into clinical boxes which can be easily shifted around.
It could mean someone who spends every free minute on activities maintaining Church and religion and denomination.
It is interesting – Abraham wasn’t a Christian.
Neither was David.
Jesus was a Jew.
For he is alive, is he not?
He is someone of the ‘present’, with an existent life, one continuing into what seems to be the future we unwrap every new day?
And I never see him ‘converted’?
It was only many years after his death & resurection that the people who followed him and believed him to be a someone started to be known as ‘christians’.
I went looking for those words in the New Testament.
Thank goodness for the world-wide web & something like an online concordance.
It is only towards the end of the book of Acts that it is reported that people were ‘called Christians’.
They didn’t call themselves that.
They were called it.
They were ‘named’ by other people.
Neatly put into a box.
So that it would be easier to place them.
Perhaps marginalize them?
It is funny how we give things names.
As if the naming enables us to control and manage and separate.
I stumble upon words earlier on in the book of Acts.
Long before they were called ‘christians’.
‘They devoted themselves to fellowship.’
To spending time in each others’ company.
Enjoying each others’ company.
‘To the breaking of the bread.’
To eating together.
‘Everyone was filled with awe.’
They weren’t ‘christians’.
Everyone was filled with awe.
Not everyone in their little tribe who were energised by spending time together, eating, talking, laughing, relating.
That wouldn’t be everyone.
That would be them.
And it would be somewhat arrogant.
To be in awe of yourself.
‘Everyone was filled with awe.’
The people outside their tribe.
The people who watched them from a distance.
Who were in awe at how easy it was to be drawn to their intimacy.
Their easy way.
Their comfortable interaction.
Their new approach.
‘Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.’
Not to ‘their own’.
Not to the people who ate with them and laughed with them.
Who crossed their path & came into their life.
Yesterday we met with Ashleigh. A week or so ago we hosted a fundraising event. She needs very expensive medical care. Care not available here in South Africa.
And then a ‘christian’ commented on it.
‘It is so sad to see the church, the very wealthy and affluent and blessed church having to resort to cake sales, golf days, and now fashion shows in order to move us to give into a need.
This displays a heart who only gives if there is a ‘cookie’ in return. The teacher had a tremendous responsibility in directing us in the way of a cheerful giver, that giving cheerfully is what pleases God and not giving with a ‘what’s in it for me’ heart.’
He is right off course.
In some way.
The mere fact that we had to host this benefit speaks to how much it has changed.
Churches nowadays build massive buildings & buy expensive sound equipment. They spend large sums of money on creating and maintaining a orginization with staff and stuff.
They don’t give to anyone as he (or she) needs.
They don’t ‘sell their goods and possessions’ to raise the R1.4 million Ashleigh might need to go to the United States, so that she may live to be eighty and not die before she is twenty-four.
But perhaps he is wrong as well.
For we did not have a ‘cookie’.
And we ‘gained’ nothing.
Except the joy of giving to someone, anyone, in need.
Because the ‘Church’ and the ‘Christians’ did not.
As I consider our guests question late into the night, long after they’ve left, I realize I did not answer them.
If I had said ‘yes’, they would’ve boxed me into something which I am not.
Or at least which I do not want to be.
If I had said ‘no’, they might have deduced that I have nothing to do with the God whom I love immensely.
How did it happen that ‘christians’ cornered the market on God?
On knowing him?
On living in relationship with him?
On being affected by him and having his fingerprints on your heart?
No, Jane, I am not a ‘christian’.
But I find myself drawn to that little tribe who ‘devoted themselves to fellowship, to breaking the bread and prayer. To doing business and making money, not to buy themselves more comfort and luxury, but to give it away to anyone who might need it.’
And I see his fingerprints on me.
In the mere reality that I am drawn to that little tribe, I recognize his fingerprints on my soul.
I am in awe.
At how I’ve been affected.
And I am reluctant to give this a ‘name’ or to muster it into an already designed stable.
There was a day when I lay on the floor of our tiny bathroom, bundled next to the toilet. A day when I swore at him. Told him in crude terms to ‘just leave me alone’.
And looking back I can see that it was not he whom I wanted to leave me alone.
It was the caricature into which he has been misformed.
And since, I’ve come to know him differently.
And we share life.
Me loudly and passionately.
Him whispering into my soul.
Allowing me to see with different eyes.
My family and our weird accidental life.
The people I stumble upon everyday.
I’m sorry that this too is not a simple expected answer.
Perhaps not even an answer at all.
Perhaps I am nothing that can be named.
But I do take solace in that short paragraph which Dr Luke might have penned.
About that little tribe.
Who loved spending time in other people’s company.
Who loved eating together.
Who loved making money and giving it away.
I would’ve liked to be known as one of them.
PS: for the ones who want to go and check-up on me, I’m referring to Acts 2:42 – 47 and Acts 11:25
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