It started with a phone call. Immediately when I answered the phone call, I knew who it was. It was my good friend. He is now retired and no longer a regular presence in my life. But he and I talk fairly often. I always like to hear from him, so this phone call was no different.
It was a short call. He wanted to have lunch with me and I was just as happy as he was to have lunch. So when two people want the same thing, it is pretty easy to agree on a plan of action. So we had lunch.
I will confess, however, I really did not go for the food. That part was not elaborate. There was no caviar! I had a basic sandwich and settled for water to drink. That does not qualify as a sumptuous meal! If you look up the meaning of “sumptuous,” you will discover it means things like extremely costly, magnificent, rich and luxurious. The place we went for lunch would never conjure up these kinds of words to describe it.
It was not extremely costly. In fact, my friend bought my meal, so it did not cost me a thing! I would not describe my sandwich or water to be magnificent. And it clearly was not luxurious. I have been to some restaurants that I would consider luxurious. I have seen people pay more money for a bottle of wine than my friend paid for our lunch.
There is no way to describe our lunch in any way than that it was simple. But you know, I really did not go for lunch. I could have eaten in my study at the college. I could have gone home. I had many options to get food somewhere. No, I really did not go for the lunch---if we mean by lunch only the food.
I only went for one reason and that reason was my friend. In fact, I would have been happy to go for “lunch” and not even eat. The eating was incidental. The friendship is crucial. I could live without having had lunch. I could fast the whole day and be quite fine. I appreciated the food, but it was not necessary in that moment at that place.
My friendship, on the other hand, is crucial. Would I live if I did not have this friend? Of course, I would. He could disappear from my life and I would survive. In that sense, he is not necessary to my life like food is necessary. Sure I can miss a meal and do quite well. But I cannot give up eating and survive. If I refuse to eat, I can only live about 40 days and then I am dead.
On the other hand, I could live my entire life without a friend. But what kind of life would that be? That would be a life without love. You may be a bit surprised that I have sneaked the word, “love,” into the conversation. But it is because I know Greek and appreciate it. (The same is true for Latin.) One of the Greek words for love (philos) we usually translate as “friend.” Think of our American city, Philadelphia. You should see that Greek word, philos, in the beginning part of Philadelphia, which people affectionately label, “the city of brotherly love.” (You might now guess the “adelphia” part of the city’s name means “brother.”)
Now watch how I want to interpret that simple lunch to which I was invited. Let’s say now that my friend called me with an invitation to Philadelphia---that is, to a place of brotherly love. Obviously, I did not buy a plane ticket to that East coast city. I hopped in my car for a short drive to a familiar restaurant. But it was a lunch of love between brothers. Of course, he is not my blood brother. We do not share any DNA.
But we do share in the Spirit. He and I do believe there is a Divine Spirit in which we move and have our being. We would affirm that we both commune with that Spirit. And we could say that we went to a simple lunch to share communion with each other in that Spirit. We were two brothers in the Spirit sharing in the communion of the food, fun, and the fellowship. It was wonderful.
And now I realize it actually was sumptuous…the communion that is. It was a rich time. In fact, it was luxurious. I felt wrapped in the luxury of his care, concern, and commitment. I can even describe it as a magnificent occasion. I always find friendship to be transformative. I left that simple lunch a new man.
In the beginning we saw that one meaning of sumptuous is “extremely costly.” Financially, this was not a sumptuous meal. But spiritually it was sumptuous. It is extremely costly. Love is always costly. It can be sacrificial. That is always the potential cost of being a citizen of Philadelphia.
My friend and I are citizens of Philadelphia…we belong to the city of brotherly love. The simple lunch was part of our membership fee. I have no doubt he loves enough to pay a much higher price. I hope I can, too.