On the last night of our traveling "edge-of-the-Plains" magical mystery tour, we ate our way through a culinary carnival in Worthington Christian Reformed Church, where about 45 weary pilgrims were refreshed and then overloaded with a seven-course meal. Sounds biblical. It was.
For more than fifteen years, Worthington, Minnesota, has attracted real-live human beings from all over the world because a local industry looks for the cheapest labor they can find. Minnesota's own Sinclair Lewis made a writing career out of making fun of dumb small-town folks, all of them white and mentally listless; but if you think of Worthington as Gopher Prairie or Grovers Corners or even Lake Woebegone, you don't have a clue. Downtown Worthington is a human rainbow, a medley of folks who don't speak English all that well and dress in a fashion that is to them their very own, but to the neighbors, white folks, immensely exotic. Honestly, i's almost impossible even to imagine a Worthington, MN, in the rural midwest.
But we were there, and seven ethnic peoples served up a supper that was, in theory as well as taste, quite simply divine. Most the time. There were a few moments when, unbeknownst to Dutch Reformed taste buds, some ultra spicy food snuck on the plate and lit people up like roman candles. I swear I saw smoke coming from ears around several tables. I was ready to call the fire department when someone whispered that, here too, all things must pass.
What a treat. First, an explanation from the chefs, then an object lesson in how to eat the delights, then an altar call, and up we came, time and time again. Laotian, Mexican, Liberian, and several ethnic flavors of Ethiopian, that food was a celebration--all of it just wonderful. Too much, in fact.
When at last, our tasty journey done, the local Worthington Dutch-Americans offered their own finale, a glorious shortcake swarming with strawberries. Like some totally soused sailor, I absolutely couldn't belly up to the bar for another round, I would have had to roll--no, be rolled. I was suffering dearly for my sin, which was, of course, gluttony--the final of the seven deadlies.
What a feast.
Freshness turns into cliche very quickly when it comes to our pondering of the world to come. The metaphors in "Jerusalem the Golden" don't stick well anymore, not that gold streets don't have their own appeal, given the price of gold these days. And heavenly choirs simply don't have the drawing power they once had; maybe we ought to push instead for heavenly rock concerts or praise teams.
Our stock of heavenly metaphors today is drawn almost completely from our own greatest perceived weakness, and therefore whenever someone talks of the new heavens and the new earth, we tend to create some kind of multi-ethnic look--"Red and yellow, black and white--they are precious in his sight;/Jesus loves the little children of the world." Adults too, of course. Too often, such community doesn't happen here on the terra firma, so we rhapsodize, make it our own look of what heaven must be like.
That vision is what we witnessed in Worthington CRC on Friday night, a rainbow coalition, a melting pot, a painter's palatte, all kinds of colors praising the Lord.
But I came away thinking that maybe even if it is a cliche, far easier said than done, far more a wish than a reality, who really cares? For one night at least, at the end of our journey, we'd seen a community of colorful communities, all praising the same Lord and Father and creator, eating his bounty, even when it was way too hot.
It's impossible for me to imagine that that same Father and God didn't look down on the long dinner that evening and, in his grace, pronounce it very good.
Oops. I erred. That strawberry dessert I skipped?--it wasn't shortcake at all, it was angel food. How could I forget? Angel food. That's exactly what it was.
All of that is my morning thanks for an entire week of joy.