E-pistle July 22

Thou Preparest a Table Before – Musings at 35,000 Feet
This week’s edition of the E-pistle comes to you a bit early as I am on my way south – to Brazil and to the 70-degree weather of mid-winter in the Brazilian highlands. I will be spending the week with friends in Belo Horizonte, a city of about 3 million 200 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. But right now I am at 35,000 feet somewhere between Philadelphia and Miami where I will have an eight-hour layover before my eight and a half hour flight to Belo Horizonte.
I do not normally sit in the first class cabin when I travel. I just don’t.  But this trip, my sixteenth to Brazil, finds me in seat 4A, up front; among those seats I normally see on my way to the back of the bus. It’s taken a lot of miles to get this seat and I’m here because it was the seat I could get. No frequent flyer seats in the back. And so here I am. The service is great. A little dish of warmed nuts – lots of cashews and almonds – a warm wash cloth after the nuts and before a really nicely done chicken Cobb salad for lunch served on a glass dish with silverware that clinks. The flight attendant smiles and calls me by name and is eager to provide whatever I want.
I probably won’t do this again for a long while, but it’s nice flying first class.
As I sit here sipping coffee from a porcelain cup, I’ve been thinking about that line from the 23rd Psalm, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” I don’t think there are any enemies on the flight, but I have a strong sense of the table prepared before me.
In about thirty hours, my friends Emerson and Nilcéia and I (it’s Emerson’s college graduation I’m going to celebrate) will be making our way to the home Odias and Nilda, mutual friends who live just on the edge of Favela da Ventosa, the windy favela, for a Friday evening dinner.  Odias and Nilda are contemporaries to Becky and me, their two daughters about the same age as our kids. Odias is a fine stone mason and Nilda is a seamstress. They are some of the best people we have ever met: kind, caring, faithful. They know Christ and share him in how they live and by what they say.
By favela standards, Odias’ and Nilda’s house is quite nice. Becky and I have stayed there many times and it is a favorite place.  Behind the high walls and steel gate that keeps the violence and hopelessness of the favela in the streets is a place that is well-kept and full of love. Tomorrow night’s meal prepared by Nilda will be far better than anything they can offer in the first class cabin.
Odias and Nilda are poor by American standards.  They don’t fly first class or eat at restaurants where the wait staff attends to your every need. But they are rich, indeed, by Kingdom standards. One of the great joys of the Christian life is the anticipation that is ours in Christ – that someday we will sit and eat together with all the saints at a table prepared before us, that we will receive the full blessing of those who are already blessed by having been invited to the wedding supper of the lamb. Someday we will feast with Odia and Nilda, Nilcéia and Emerson, in ways my fellow passengers in first class and I cannot imagine.
So, overnight tonight to Belo Horizonte and met at the airport by Emerson and Nilcéia. Clean up and rest and then off to casa do Odias e Nilda. Saturday will be a relaxing day with Emerson and Nilcéia and then Sunday School in the morning and worship in the evening on Sunday when I will preach at a service honoring Emerson’s graduation.  The three days of EBF (VBS) with another graduation worship service and then the graduation itself. I round out the week with two days with my good friend and seminary classmate who introduced us to Brazil ten years ago.
Here is a link to a video I have put together with some images from our times in Brazil (you have nothing better to do sitting around Miami airport all afternoon).
I won’t see you Sunday, but all of you will be in my prayers.