Easter has officially come and gone, and what I very different Easter we had this year.
No fancy clothes, no rushing to church to get a good seat and no singing in the front pew, “Christ the Lord has risen today, Hallelujah!”
As much as I enjoy all of this, the solace and calm of this Easter was just as special, maybe even more.
Following Ester, I have been pondering the stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection. It may be because I myself am eager to see Jesus these days of COVID life or maybe it’s a way to keep Easter going despite the day actually being gone.
I am a miracle believer and perhaps Jesus may be appearing to us today, just not exactly has he did then.
My favorite of all these stories comes from John chapter 21; here, Jesus is seen standing on the bank at Lake Galilee. He advises his disciples on their fishing skills, then he sits with them and serves them bread and fish. There are few details of this story, which leaves me with so many questions. I’m left with only my imagination as to what went on and what may have been said on the bank that day.
I wanted to catch fish with my family this Easter and cook it over a fire, just to get a taste of what happened that day. We did indeed go fishing, but no catch was made.
I began thinking about the simple hospitality Jesus showed that very day. How remarkable that one of his last acts before leaving earth was sitting still with the ones he loved and serving them food.
When my husband and I arrived in Cuba, we had no expectation or thought of what was to come. We knew we would be fed, and we were told we would be well taken care of, but the hospitality showed to us by our new friends was overwhelming.
Our greeting at the airport was special enough, but the meal and preparation that was laid before us that evening is something I will never forget.
We were hosted by the Methodist Center in Havana; it is essentially the “mother ship” of the Methodist religion in Cuba. Upon arrival, we were led into an outdoor parlor where we received fresh water and a few moments rest form our day of travel.
Kindly, our new friend Margarita asked us what time we would like to eat dinner.
“We are preparing to serve you tonight,” she said. “Do you have a preference as to when you would like to eat?”
Isaac and I both just stared at each other and responded, “Whenever you will have it ready is fine with us.”
For we all know, in Southern culture you learn to just say thank you. You don’t ask or demand of anything, you just partake and appreciate it.
Margarita decided on a time for us. We were soon venturing through downtown Havana, taking in all the sights, sounds and even the beautiful coastline.
We returned to the Methodist Center a short while later, hungry and eager to see what was prepared. A tall and striking Cuban gentleman seated us at a table in a large dining room, big enough to seat well over sixty people, but we were the only 2.
A darling table setting was before us, complete with clean linens, a small vase of flowers, glassware, a water pitcher, coffee cups and saucers, napkins and all our utensils. My husband and I sat speechless and stared in awe at the love and thought before us.
We were soon served with an abundance of barbecued chicken, rice, bread, guava fruit (native to Cuba), cucumber salad and fresh pressed papaya juice. The gentleman served us as if we were seated at a five-star restaurant in New York City. His smile was bright and caring, and he did not miss a beat. He poured our papaya juice and played us music on his cell phone coming from the kitchen. We thought he might sit with us, but upon invitation he declined. Perhaps we made him nervous, for he did not speak English.
It took us a few moments to decide to begin to eat. My husband offered up our blessing, and there, we held hands and prayed over our first meal in Cuba.
Every bite was savored, and we felt the safety and peace of a foreign place.
Words could not express the gratitude we felt in the pit of our souls. The lavishness and love poured over us was like none we had ever felt before. And these people did not even know us.
Jesus knew his disciples, for they were his brothers. He spent day and night with them and ate often with them. It made sense that he would cook and serve them as a final farewell and goodbye.
The Methodist Center served us out of pure love and faithfulness. We were foreigners, yet we were family in the heart of Christ. No common language between us, yet one common truth of Jesus.
When we strip away any common ground among people in our lives, all that is left is the heart we hold. All that is left, is the way we serve and show the love of Christ.
Do we serve this way today even among our own families? Or what about our neighbor and people we don’t know?
I can only imagine what could be lavished upon our world, just as I can only imagine the way Jesus served his friends fish on a beach.
Jesus said, “Go everywhere in the world and tell the good news to everyone.” (Mark 16: 15) I believe now is as good as time as any. Time to show up and serve and love one another.
Thank you Cuba, for showing us what hearted hospitality looks like. And thank you too to Third Lens ministries, for serving the world in love and faithfulness.