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Barbette’s Feast
by Mike Keating on Wednesday, 3rd of December 2014

Barbette’s Feast


Life is either dominate by love or law. God’s kingdom is not a kingdom of power; yet is very powerful. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of love. God’s response to human failure was not to get cross, but to go to the cross!


Karen Blixen, whose life was depicted in the film Out of Africa, returned to Denmark and continued to write books. One of her books, Barbette’s Feast became a cult classic after being made into a film in 1980.



The story is set in Norway – father leads an austere Lutheran sect – cold, legalistic – with two daughters – Martine (for Martin Luther) and Philippa (Philip Melanchthon).


The father dies, and his daughters lead the dying miserable and legalistic sect. Philippa has a brief encounter with Papin, a singing teacher and aristocrat, who promises to teach her to sing and that she would do well in Paris and get to dine at the famously expensive Café Anglais. She retires to her life in Norre Vesborg. A French stranger called Barbette arrives in the village; beaten and a refugee. But apparently “Barbette can cook”.


Nervous of “french” cooking (horses and frogs), they taught her to cook the plain food of the poor village. 12 years later, Barbette wins the lottery of 10,000 francs! A massive fortune for those days. They treat her poorly for so many years.


Barbette said, “Let me cook a celebration meal for your father”. They agreed but were critical and suspicious. A grand meal is presented and the General returns from war and gives a speech “Tonight, mercy and truth, my friends have met together … righteousness and bliss have kissed one another”


Two scenes follow – the communion and fellowship have brought the group back together – there are hugs and loves, laughter and tears, forgiveness and repentance. The second scene involves the reluctant thanks to Barbette. “It was quite a nice dinner.”


Then Barbette tells people her secret. I USED TO BE THE HEAD CHEF AT CAFÉ


ANGLAIS! Barbette then tells them that she will not be returning to France because it is so expensive. “What about the money?” they all asked Then Barbette drops the bombshell. She has spent her winnings, every last franc of the 10,000 on the feast they have just devoured. “Don’t be shocked, she tells them, that’s what a meal for 12 costs at the Café Anglais!”


It is a parable of grace. The church has forgotten. Grace comes free of charge, no strings attached, on the house. Extravagant, undeserved, without measure, limitless.Mozart’s requiem contains the line “Remember merciful Jesu, I am the cause of your journey”.


- Ps Mike