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Life in Community

An Invitation to the Wedding Banquet

September 8, 2020 by

Last fall my wife and I moved in with Sarah, a ninety-four-year-old Sister (as we call our fellows in the Bruderhof) to help care for her. One evening after dinner, Sarah looked at me and said, “I love being with other people. People are so interesting, they are all so different. Some people I could be with for hours; I can’t say that for everyone.”

It reminded me of something else she once said to me after dinner, decades ago.

I had arrived at the Bruderhof on a Friday evening. It was October 13, 1978. I was told I needed to spruce myself up, because the community was beginning the wedding celebrations for a young couple. I sat down at a table in a far corner of the dining room, watching the room fill with hundreds of people. The parents of the bride arrived – Sarah and her husband, Pete – and took their places at the head table along with the groom’s parents. Then the couple arrived in their wedding clothes, and the banquet meal began. The singing, the fellowship, and the festive food became a powerful first impression for me. I was living in a real-time parable of Jesus. Here in front of me was the story of the Wedding Banquet that my mother had told me many times as a child: “The Angel of the Lord went out and called many to the Master’s wedding feast but they all refused the invitation. So the Angel asked, ‘Who shall I go to now?’ And the Master said, ‘Go out into the hedges and byways! Call the sick and the lame and the poor! My house must be filled, I want to share my joy with everyone.’”

shooting starComet Neowise photographed in Oregon, Summer 2020. Photo courtesy of Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash.

I had literally slept in a ditch the night before.

The timing of that, my first visit, was nothing of my own doing. Jesus called me out of a world of sin into a new life of freedom and joy. Since that day I have never left “The Life.” I say “The Life” because that is how Sarah always referred to it. She would always begin telling her life story like this: “When Pete and I came to ‘The Life’ …”

The Sunday after the wedding, I was invited to join Pete and Sarah’s family for an afternoon walk. The air was crisp and cold, the golden-red leaves of the maple trees had fallen in great piles at the edge of the road. Their two children were shuffling through the leaf-piles and chatting together with their parents as we walked slowly along. I was amazed that two grown-up children had such love and respect for their parents. There was an atmosphere of joy and harmony that included me, a total stranger, as if I had always belonged with them. In fact, they asked me to join them for dinner that evening so they could hear why I came.

After the meal, Sarah said to me, “We have a saying among the Hutterites: ‘We’ll only get to know each other after we’ve eaten a barrel of salt together.’”

I asked, “How long does that take?”

Sarah smiled. “A lifetime.”

Recently, my brother Dave in Seattle wrote to me, “I’ve had a couple of parting glimpses the last few evenings at an increasingly faint comet Neowise passing away from us.”

I replied, “I also looked for the comet a few nights ago under a clear, soft-breeze summer sky. I was sad to notice how faint it was, and I could feel it moving far, far away. Yesterday, a beloved Sister passed into eternity here at Beech Grove. She was in a state of complete inner and outer peace in the last days. I have known Sarah since the first day that I arrived at the Bruderhof, forty-two years ago. . . .”

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About the author

John Henry Menz

John Henry Menz

John is an amateur astronomer, photographer, and gardener who is currently living in Beech Grove, a Bruderhof in England...

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