Andy and I spent Easter night at the home of longtime clergy friends, Merry and David. When we came downstairs for breakfast on Monday morning, David was busy brewing coffee and Merry was up to culinary mischief. It wasn’t the first time.Thirty years ago I watched in awe as Merry dipped artichoke leaves in melted butter and harvested the teensy amount of tasty flesh with her teeth. At twenty-two, fresh artichokes were not in my vocabulary.
At the sink on this Easter Monday morning, Merry brushed the dirt from some mangy, gnome-like mushrooms. “I found these in my backyard yesterday; I think I’ll sauté them and throw them in the scrambled eggs.” I love fungus of all sorts–portabellos, criminis, Enokis, shiitakes, white buttons….but I’m wary of eating anything harvested from a pile of damp leaves. So with prayer and terror I swallowed the eggs and the presumed morel mushrooms. They were delicious and edible. Along with some smoked trout and Nova lox, this was a breakfast feast and another culinary first for me from Merry’s kitchen.
With a delicious backyard breakfast in our bellies, the four of us piled into the car and drove south towards Indiana for a day of play. We passed miles of farms and fields. Near the town of Shipshewana we pulled into the driveway of a pristine farm. Cattle grazed in the yard and a youngish woman in a black bonnet was hanging laundry on a clothes line. “This is Daniel and Linda’s* farm,” said Merry. “They are friends of my dad.” (Merry’s dad is 96.) I’m not much for showing up unannounced at anyone’s house, let alone at a busy Amish couple’s farm. But we jumped out of the car and were greeted with smiles and hugs by Linda. Daniel appeared from the barn and handshakes followed.
After we helped hang the remaining towels and sheets on the line, the six of us went inside the house and sat at a huge table in their large inviting kitchen. A sign on the wall said, “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.” During the following hour, Linda brewed us mint tea from a handful of leaves in her garden. Daniel sat with a child or two on his lap. We talked about ordinary things–gardens, cooking, God, church, children (four of their nine children joined us at the table). What astonished me was the ease with which Daniel and Linda gave up an hour of their busy day. While I was worried about being an intruder and interrupting their work time, they were creating a space for visitation, for community. For their efforts I received an hour of joy and peace. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2 RSV) Daniel and Linda acted as if they had nothing more important to do than to make us feel at home. Their task for that hour was the radical hospitality of the Gospel. My task was to receive their hospitality and to remember to go and do likewise.
From the first bite of morels and eggs on Easter Monday, I should have known it would be a special day. But I never imagined I would be entertained and treated like an angel by complete strangers.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
Graphite Morel Drawing by Sally Markell