Milly Bauer is one sharp lady. One day when a friend and I were sipping coffee and crunching on mouth-watering Milly cookies at her kitchen table, she told about a loving practice she maintains to celebrate her love of Don. Don Bauer and Milly were married for 51 years before Don passed away. Each year that they were married Don, of course, gave Milly a gift on her birthday and at Christmas. Are you ready for this? Milly told us that each year on her birthday she buys a gift for herself from Don. At Christmas, she buys a gift for herself from Don. This sweet ritual has become so routine that when Milly’s children gather for her birthday or at Christmas, they expectantly ask, “Mom, what did Dad get you this year?” My friend and I sat amazed as she told us, seeing the twinkle in Milly’s eyes and hearing the fondness for Don in her voice.
Is this not one of the most creative ways to keep an enduring love enduring? Milly says that she doesn’t know of anyone else who does this. My friend and I had never heard anything like it, either. Just think: this gift exchange is not just between Milly and Don, but between a beloved father and thoughtful mother and their children. “What did Dad get you this year?” Milly says the upside of this ritual gift-giving is that she now gets exactly what she wants from Don. Funny lady. I don’t know if Don can see this simple, but significant ritual twice a year, but if he does, “I can only imagine,” as the song goes, the smile on his face as he laughs and the love for Milly in his heart blazing strong.
A regular practice keeps the fire of love alive. Once a month, on the first Sunday, we, Fellowship Evangelical Covenant Church, enact a similar practice of love. The gift-giver is Jesus and he hands to us the broken bread and offers to us the redemption cup. As we celebrate the Lord’s Table, the Giver reminds us of how much he loves us and what he did to demonstrate that costly love. Though I am privileged to speak at the Table, I must never forget that the True Host is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is truly present and active. At the Table, grace is the air we breathe and forgiveness and life are the gifts we enjoy. Jesus’ invitation is as enduring as his love. “Come, eat this bread and drink this cup in remembrance of Me.”
The Table is more than a Christian history lesson we must not forget. The Table is a place of meeting where authentic love is given and received. The Table is about persons in relationship, just as Milly’s ongoing gift exchanges are about an enduring love between a husband and wife. We ask Milly, “Why do you do this gift exchange?” We don’t expect Milly to say “Well, so I don’t forget Don.” How could she? She does it to experience and enjoy the love that still exists between her and Don. Don is not present, but he is alive. That’s the Christian hope. A wonder of wonders made possible by the body and blood, the bread and cup, of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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