Once there were two beautiful young sisters whose father was the founder of his own stern religious group. The rules were hard. Life was not to be enjoyed. There were to be no frivolity or sensual pleasures. Even though the sisters attracted numerous suitors, the father drove them all away. Over time, the sisters became elderly spinsters and continued to lead the ever-dwindling group as a way of preserving their father’s memory.
Then one rainy night a stranger arrived at their door, her name was Babette. She was a refugee from a war-ravaged Paris. She begged for their help and they decided to take her in. Babette became their housekeeper and cook. She served them for 14 years and added a few nice touches to the bland meals that were a part of their religious discipline.
One day Babette won the lottery. She now had 10,000 francs. She decided she would treat the sisters and their congregation to a feast, a multi-course banquet accompanied by the finest wines. She ordered foods that arrived day after day and purchased new tablecloths and china.
No one in the village had ever imagined anything like this. The religious friends suspected this meal to be a sensual bridge that might lead them all into sin. They reluctantly attended the feast but agreed not to enjoy it. They ate suspiciously at first, eyeing one another, but the food was too good. The setting, the atmosphere, the soup and wine was all so spectacular that joy broke out. Old wounds became salved, ancient joys were rekindled. A spirit of hope and redemption settled over the table. The guests were healed by Babette’s gifts. Only after the meal did the sisters discover their own identity. This stranger they have allowed to putter around the kitchen for 14 years was one of Europe’s renowned master chefs.
Even more, they were healed by Babette’s self-sacrifice. The 10,000 francs was her ticket home, her chance to return to her old life. She chose, instead, to spend every single franc on that single insanely glorious meal. The feast was a gift. It was pure grace, a joyful act of appreciation from a grateful soul.
Babette’s gift of grace touched hearts that had become fossilized by pettiness and pride. Maybe we also can relax and enjoy the gift of grace given to us through the sacrifice of Jesus?!
-Rev Dr William Lewis