Yesterday at church we celebrated the 18th birthday of Andisiwe, one of the young women who has become active in the congregation. The idea to celebrate came from Erica Yoder, our American helper these last two months, who has herself become active in our congregation. Erica and Anna baked a cake for Andisiwe which the whole church shared together. Each person got a small piece—with some left over.
The whole celebration time became for me a witness to how community is built within the church. Though the event was ostensibly for one person, Andisiwe, the good things it brought overflowed to all. Though the cake had her name on it, circumstance—one small cake shared among many—required that Andisiwe receive no larger portion than any other person there on that day. Likewise, though we sang to Andisiwe, we went around the room and listened to each person, young and old, inform us of his or her own birthday. One woman did not know her date; yet her very not knowing brought home the importance of the event. In a world of shattered worlds, in which people are searching to know and be known, the unknown woman can have her cake and eat it too—among those who have opened themselves to share the love of Christ. The celebration of the one overflowed with blessings for the many, including, and perhaps especially, for those who are "least" in the world's eyes.
The apostle Paul said something similar in describing the work of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:15). And though Andisiwe was not herself in the position of Christ, the celebration of her birthday within the church hints at the power that the regular celebration of Christ’s “life laid down”, “unto death”, “for many”, has to unite those who “remember” it (Jn 10:18; Php. 2:8; Mk. 14:24; 1 Cor. 11:25). Just as the “unleavened cake” of Christ’s righteous life was prepared for us in his broken body and blood out-poured, so birthday cake on this day became the one “body” through which we expressed our love for one another in the Lord (Ex. 12:14-20; 1 Cor. 10:16-17).
As Erica prepares the cake, the congregation sings (translated), "The name of the Lord be praised"/"Jesus is exalted".