I am having lunch today with Je Vais. He became my friend three years ago and now he is off abroad for a new job. I will miss him. He has an infectious laugh and a servant heart. Many are the times he has lifted my spirits.

Was it Shakespeare who said that parting was such sweet sorrow? Yes, Juliet said it to Romeo. Saying “goodbye” is easy when friendship is shallow, but hard when friendship is deep. I am looking forward to lunch with Je Vais in one sense, but not in another. We will not break bread again together for – who knows how long?

Was this how Jesus felt at the last supper? A kind of pain mixed with joy? The pain produced by impending separation, but joy produced by reflection on the shared love between him and his disciples. He said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15, NIV). His eagerness motivated by love, not just destiny. He is with his friends, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15.15).

Je Vais referred to this on Sunday when he shared his thoughts on the communion. A deeper grasp of the meaning of that last meal is made clear when we contemplate the sweet pain of saying “goodbye” to dear friends.

Our lunch today will be painfully sweet, but I am glad it will be so. Any other set of emotions would be un-Christian.

Malcolm Cox