Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tea for Two or Fourteen

As my last friend left I floated back into the kitchen, leaned contentedly against the counter, and wondered at the goodness of God we experienced in our home that morning. My face relaxes into a smile even now as I remember the happy banter, the tears, the laughter, the safety of a group of like-hearted women, the affirmations freely given and received, and, of course,  the scones and Devonshire cream. It was truly an Ephesians 3:20 morning.

What a joy to create an atmosphere where trust and delight converged and blessed.

The Appreciation Tea for the wives of our church pastors was my idea and I sent the invitations. The success of the morning, however, rested on five of us who came together to serve our mutual friends. We got out our best silver (freshly polished) and our china; fancy food was prepared, fruit lovingly cut—the mangoes were especially good; the tea was served from lovely floral teapots—our guests never saw a tea bag; and the homemade chocolate candy was the delightful flourish.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

Our setting was a time of relaxation, chatting and catching up, around the tea tables; after we’d enjoyed the edible fare, the authentic apples of gold--the planned and unplanned verbal affirmations--were given and received.

Planning and enjoying tea with friends pictures a body of believers at work. In I Corinthians 12, Paul teaches about “varieties of gifts … varieties of service … varieties of activities”  We prepared and wrapped  presents, shared goods, initiated, invited, facilitated, cooked, shared knowledge of tea, shared words, created beauty, and the very necessary gift of kitchen service. As each contributed it was the “same Lord … same God” who empowered us all. (verses 4-6).  I love Paul’s summary in verse 7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

A few verses down in the same chapter, Paul exhorts, “…God arranged the member of the body … as He chose.” (verse 18) That truth distilled in our hearts as the affirmations were shared. Some enjoyed speaking publically; some not as much. Some needed the Kleenex box as their words and tears spilled out together. Some used prepared notes; some did not. I loved the variety of personalities.

Paul continues with this insight, “… the parts of the body that seem (from a human perspective) to be weaker (less spiritual) are indispensable,” Parentheses and italics mine. One friend apologized for not wanting to speak out loud in the group; she was affirmed as a great counselor. Oh how we need counselors, and most counseling happens in private. That dear friend is indispensable to the body!

Some things I will remember from our Tea:
the importance of friends creating together;
my gifting was enhanced by the gifting of my friends;
atmosphere makes a difference;
words are powerful, very powerful;
someone needs to be behind the camera.

The familiar phrase, the ground is level at the foot of the cross, could also be communicated with these words, the ground is level when you host a Tea with your friends.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
II Corinthians 2:14

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