Marieta Holst made the best cakes ever. At least that’s what I, as a ten-year-old, wholeheartedly believed. This great early memory of sinking my teeth into a deep, moist, vanilla sponge-type flat cake with the best vanilla or chocolate icing in the world (with those green, blue and pink icing flowers on the corners) is matched only by my memory of the bright, warm and smiling face of the baker of the cake, and her late husband, Alf. My mom, dad, brother and I used to visit Marieta and Alf Holst in their home in the town of St. Jacob’s, Ontario. Remembering those sumptuous cakes immediately, automatically, brings to mind the warmth and goodness of Alf and Marieta Holst.
One of the best things we do as a church is come together to eat good food. Food is not just “fuel” to keep us going, but has always been meant to be enjoyed, and savoured, with others. A local rabbi in Kitchener recently said to me that a multi-course Passover meal in his home can easily last for over six hours! Amen to that! There’s just something very wrong with gulping down a Big Mac while dashing between appointments. Not only unhealthy, and a strain on the digestive system, but it’s also an ugly symptom of our speed-obsessed society.
I can’t help but wonder if one of the reasons there are so many stories in the Bible of Jesus eating leisurely and unhurried with others, is because of the truly memorable and joyful occasions these mealtimes were. Whether at the wedding in Cana, or at the kitchen table in Emmaus, or eating barbequed fish over a charcoal fire on the beach, those who ate with Jesus remembered these as good, joyful, even life-transforming times. Jesus was good company.
In this season of Lent, as we wonder how and when we might experience God, as we search sometimes desperately for God’s life-giving, yet frustratingly elusive presence, let’s recall the stories of Jesus, who loved to eat with people. And the next time we find ourselves surrounded by good food and good company, maybe, just maybe, if we pause long enough, and observe, something of God may catch our attention. The warm smile of the person sitting across from us, the encouraging and affirming words of the person passing the plate of potatoes, or the understanding nod of the baker of the cake who cuts a big slice of it and offers it generously and eagerly to us, may be just what we need to know that God is closer to us then we think, and that God’s deep love for us never ends.
Rev. David Malina