Last night, Light Princess and I went to the Soup Kitchen.
We have a great feeding program in City By the Sea. A hungry person can get a meal 3 times a day, 365 days a year. Several different non-profits work cooperatively, using the same space at different times. The organization that provides dinner seven nights a week and lunch, Monday through Friday, began as an ecumenical effort over twenty years ago. They serve anyone who comes through the door, no questions asked, no gospel preached but food for those who need it.
Earlier in the day, we went to Sunday School at Y1P, where all ages of students are studying world religions. I have to say it was odd for me to lead off the worship service (announcements, Call to Worship, Opening Prayer, Passing the Peace) and then to depart for the multi-purpose room. But sorry as I was to miss Music Sunday, I also wanted to attend this particular session, to meet the Sunday School children but also to hear the speaker, a Conservative rabbi whose congregation is in my neighborhood.
She gave the kids a great introduction to Judaism, focusing on the question, what does it mean to love God/Adonai/YHWH with all your heart and all your soul and all your might? The kids responded to her with many wise thoughts, catching the association of might and strength, the call to action that we sometimes miss in Christianity.
You can't miss it at the Soup Kitchen, where you scurry madly for an hour bringing trays of food to the guests, navigating a crowded room to get milk or coffee, clearing off the table and setting it for the next group, quickly.
I used to go to the Soup Kitchen regularly with Small Church, served on the board of Wayside and generally made it a focus of my early years of ministry. I imagine my parishioners got tired of hearing me preach about it. Some of them had been in on it from the beginning, attending the very first meeting at the Baptist church downtown, where they had trouble finding the right door, a vivid memory. By the time I came along, they had grown tired of serving there, and nothing I said seemed to make a difference. I learned the hard way that my own enthusiasm might not matter one bit.
So tonight I returned after a long absence. LP went with me, nervously. Her memories of the Soup Kitchen were dim. She wondered if she would be able to do what was required of her.
Bring the food, I said, ask if they want drinks, and keep smiling.
She looked dubious.
The guests began to stream in; we had enough servers to wait on the tables rather than serving cafeteria-style, so we lined up to get their meals, carrying trays. LP asked me over and over, what do I do?
Do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.
Serve, and be hospitable, and shine with God's love.
Really. Just bring the food, ask if they want drinks, and keep smiling.
Clad in my purple Crocs, I moved around the dining room, serving meals, bringing coffee and milk, cleaning up, refreshing the buckets of soapy water.
I'd forgotten how much I smile at the Soup Kitchen. I smile with all my might. It's a technique, of course, a way of seeming approachable and safe, but it's also how I *feel* there. I'm happy to do this work, happy to carry those trays, happy to feed the people.
During that hour, I tried to keep an eye on LP, who was covering a few tables with the C.E. Chair from Y1P, a grown-up she is just getting to know. But you have to watch where you are going, even when you're walking humbly, and especially when other people are doing the same and carrying trays at the same time. When our paths did cross she seemed at first mildly panicked, at the quarter point somewhat befuddled, but by the halfway mark?
She began to shine.
With all her might.