Early Saturday afternoon, after we had spent the morning unpacking the last of the boxes from our move (last August), Ginger and I slipped out of the house for lunch together at a new Cuban sandwich shop that opened only last Thursday in downtown Durham called Old Havana. I had scouted it out on opening day and was ready to return. It was about one-thirty when we walked into a full restaurant. We ordered and found two seats on a couch at the far end of the place that shared a table with two chairs already occupied by a young couple. After a few minutes, we began talking to one another only to find out the woman was in a M. Div/MSW program and the man was a teacher. The commonalties were comforting.
After they left, our order came up and we dove into our sandwiches and the side of roasted plantains, which were worth the trip on their own. As things slowed down in the restaurant, the owner made the rounds of the tables and stopped to see how we were doing. I was effusive about the plantains and he said, “You should try them with some black beans and rice.”
“You have those on the menu?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “I’ll get you some.” He returned with a bowl of beans and a plate with more plantains. I wish I had the vocabulary to tell you how good the beans were and how much he was telling the truth about how they even tasted better with the plantains. In between yummy noises, we talked with our mouths full and kept asking questions. “Are you open everyday?”
“We are closed on Sunday,” Roberto said, “for church.” We asked where he went to church and then Ginger identified herself as the pastor at Pilgrim and Roberto smiled and said, kindly, “Welcome, my sister and brother in Christ.”
One of my favorite stories in the gospels the account of Jesus walking with the two men on the road to Emmaus and how they only recognize him after they have sat down to dinner and he breaks the bread. Last Saturday morning, I caught a glimpse of what they must have felt: caught by surprise at the table, overcome by the sacred ordinariness of the Spirit.
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord . . .