Babette’s Feast

by Melissa Florer-Bixler
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.

It seemed fitting to me that we began our year of exploration and reflection on Communion practice in grace. Babette’s Feast, the first in our film series featuring movies about food and faith, is a story about grace received in a meal. It works around the tensions of mercy and commitment, of righteousness and joy, of holiness and pleasure.

In the story a young woman arrives on the shores of a small Danish fishing village. We discover that she is a refugee escaping civil war in France. She becomes the devoted servant of two elderly sisters, who in their youth, each gave up a chance at love and happiness – one through marriage the other through a singing career – in order to serve the ministry of their father, the leader of a Dutch Calvinist sect. Through a series of events, we can call them grace or chance, Babette comes into the sisters’ lives.

In the background of the film are the themes of regret and choice. How do we make choices and what do we do when we look back on regret at what we have done in our lives? Each of the characters faces these questions.

The apex of the film is a French meal cooked by Babette. We come to discover that in her previous life in France she was a celebrated chef. She wins the lottery and instead of spending the money to return to her life in France, as the sisters expect with sadness will be the result, she spends the entire sum, 10,000 francs, on a celebration meal for the remaining apostles of the sect.

The meal is grace. It is beauty and pleasure, righteousness and mercy kissing one another. Old hurts are overcome. Love that has been shamed is brought into the open. Regrets are lost in the hope and possibility of God’s constant provision, even when it is least expected.

The next day when we celebrated Communion as a church I had this scene in the back of my mind. The excess and abundance of Babette’s meal, her gratuitous and unmerited gift. 

During the meal the captain, the would-be-lover of the older sister, who returned to see her once more in his old age, offers a speech. While it doesn’t capture the beauty and pleasure of the meal, the color and scent and taste that waft from the screen, it puts to words the grace that flows through the meal, a grace and joy I hope will infuse itself into our church’s practice of the Lord’s Supper:

Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace, brothers, makes no conditions and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! that which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. For mercy and truth have met together and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!

A Year at the Table

A Year at the Table

Join Raleigh Mennonite for a year-long exploration, celebration, and discernment of our practice of Lord’s Supper, our relationship to food systems, and our community formed around meals.

Peace Camp

June 15, 2019 (9 am – 3 pm)
Music, games, food, art, and conflict transformation skill-building workshop for ages 5 through rising 5th graders.

Food / Faith / Film (5 pm)

  • August 3:    In which a French refugee helps a strict Danish village learn the pleasures of eating together (Read Melissa’s post-film blog post.)
  • August 10:  (animated family-friendly movie!) In which a French rat with a gift for hospitality reminds us that “anyone can cook!”
  • August 17:   In which a new chocolaterie teaches a French village that life is about more than following the mayor’s rules
  • August 24:  In which an Indian family opens a restaurant across the street from a fancy French restaurant and sparks fly!
  • August 24: Neighborhood Pig Pickin’ Potluck, at 7 pm following the film
    Bring a dish to share and dig in to locally-sourced, sustainably-raised pork! We’re including lots of side dishes so there’s plenty of room for vegetarians and vegans to join in the fun. Come on out, rain or shine! In the event of rain, we’ll move the party inside the Hope school building.

Community Tables

September 2019
Teams will explore tables in our community where people gather for meals and share reflections on what they learned.

Food and Fellowship Retreat

September 20-22, 2019
Camp Rockfish
A weekend of delving deeper into our experience of faith, food, and ritual.

Church Tables

October 2019
Teams will observe how other churches practice Communion and share reflections on what they learned.

Interfaith Meal

November 3, 2019 (6 pm)
We will share a meal with our Muslim and Jewish neighbors to draw insights from the rich table practices of these traditions.

El Salvador Delegation

November 23-30
A team from RMC will travel to El Salvador to learn from base communities how they practice Communion and table fellowship. Participants will share what they learned with the congregation.

Church-Wide Book Study

January-May 2020
Each household will receive a copy of Sara Miles’ book, Take This Bread. Books can be discussed in small groups, dinner groups, and in a Sunday school class.

Pop-Up Seminary with Dr. Malinda Berry

February 15, 2020 (9 am – 3 pm)
Dr. Malinda Berry, professor of theology at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, will spend the weekend teaching on our Mennonite theology of Communion, new questions for Communion practice, and creating a robust and living theology of table as a local community.

Dr. Berry will also preach in worship on Sunday morning

Lent Food Scavenger Hunt Project

March-April 2020
A team from church will spend Lent living off food waste as we repent of our contribution to hunger in our community. Participants will offer reflections for the church.

Communion Retreat

May 1-3, 2020
Location TBD
All-church gathering to process what we’ve learned and heard over the previous year as we discern together a rich and meaningful Communion practice.

Table Celebration Sunday

May 24, 2020 (10:30 am)
Location TBD
All-church Sunday outdoor worship as we celebrate our year of exploration at the table, culminating in sharing Communion and a meal.

This year-long series is made possible through a Vital Worship Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc.