It's a familiar feeling for many...the day is drawing to a close. Perhaps it was a "long, hot day." Perhaps you have been inside, breathing recirculated air for hours on end. Perhaps it is only just now that work is relenting...and you have been looking forward to this moment for a while now:
The Gathering for a Summer Evening.
I have a long list of those moments in my memory. There were summer evenings on the front stoop of my parents' grad-student, cinder-block apartment building. We grilled hot dogs and hamburgers on a little hibachi and sat afterword on aluminum chairs with scratchy plastic webbing. There were family gatherings at my great-grandfather's home. We would fish on the lake, and then there would ensue a "cleaning of the catch" that would leave me covered in fish scales to the point that a visit to the garden hose was a necessary requisite to readmission to the house. That smell, the the scent of Off! are easily recalled with joy.
Growing older, there was time on those evenings for friends to gather. One old friend's Appalachian retreat consisted of a small rabbit farm. We would gather, each bringing a component of a feast that we would share and upon arrival there would be a bed of coals upon marinated rabbit was already roasting. The night would fall, and the guitars would come out. We would sing and laugh, often late into the night.
Then comes time today...friends call and are making their way through this part of the world. Would we like a drop in visit? Absolutely. My wife pores over our repertoire of recipes and "go-tos" for salads, sides and a grillable. Nowadays we are wont to also discuss what home brew might best compliment the meal....and then? Friends drop in, food is shared. A moment of peace is seized in the midst of busy lives.
I am sure that you have your own gathering moments to savor, remember and perhaps forge as the days this year lengthen and as the evenings grow warm and close enough for us to remain outside after the heat of the sun fades with its setting.
At a certain point, we realize (both in life overall and in a moment during those evenings) that what matters most in life is being in relationship with people, and to be able to take time to be with people that we care about when our sole purpose is simply to be together. Those are the moments that even Jesus himself was wont to savor and encourage, even as he adjured us to rise up and feed/serve/care for those in the world who had yet to hear the promise of justice and peace offered with the advent of his Kingdom.
I have had a chance to share some of those moments this year...and by God's grace there will be a few more before the proverbial frost is on the proverbial pumpkin. My counsel?
Don't be too busy. Don't be too distracted. Do be ready to make time for those moments. It's more than just "rest and relaxation." It is a resetting of priorities. In those moments we give thanks in a sacred way to being in relationship with people given us by God to know, to love and to cherish.
Time to go fire up the grill? Yup. Amen.