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Finding Jesus in A Soup Kitchen, Part 1

February 27, 2012

“Every creature has its stimulus, its mainspring: man’s is his self-esteem. Take it away from him and he is a corpse, and he who seeks activity in a corpse will encounter only worms.” – Jose’ Rizal

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” – God, through Isaiah, chapter 58, verses 6-7.

A short time ago the church I go to, Christ Community in Murphysboro, IL, made the decision to “get in the game” by partnering with Victory Dream Center in Carbondale. Victory has a weekly food pantry and a “soup kitchen” on Saturdays, and members from CCC were given the opportunity to volunteer at these, and I was among those who signed up.

Why is this of great importance? Because compassion for and service to those in need is a vital–necessary even–part of following Jesus. Not just a good idea, not just a “nice thing to do”, not just another means of fellowship within the local church, not just an evangelism tool (although it certainly is), but a necessary part of following Jesus.

Many church leaders and teachers have–in retrospect–made a mistake in emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus because many have done so while failing to emphasize community. Not that in itself the seeking of a relationship with God is wrong, it’s definitely right, but for far too many Christians the message has been perceived as being “one on one”, with no or very little sense of community, and a tragic ignoring of what Jesus taught concerning the people around us, in our neighborhoods, cities, regions, and worldwide. Our neighbors.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied with two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your strength, all your soul and all your mind”, and also “Love your neighbor as yourself”. To emphasize just how important the second was to Him, Jesus later said “Whatsoever you do for the least of these, you do for me”. So do you see that to obey the second commandment is to obey the first?! To care for the broken, the hungry, the poor, is to love God, and when you do that, you’re committing an act of love that’s close to Gods heart–and also obeying what He’s commanded.

Here’s the benefit to obeying Jesus, and the flip-side of ignoring those commands: Matthew 25: 31-46

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 ‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 ‘Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 ‘They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 ‘He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’

So we see that it’s not just an intimate relationship, a “one-on-one” experience with God, but a relationship where we learn to live and love as God does, as He desires for us to live, loving our neighbor as ourselves. Anything else is counterfeit Christianity.

Serving in Victory’s soup kitchen (which is called DC Cafe) I’ve seen a wide range of people walk inside for a good hot meal. Individuals, couples, and families. Some have come for the first time, some are familiar guests. Some come from a home they’re barely holding onto, and some are homeless. They’re all welcomed and served like they’re kings and queens. They’re greeted by volunteer hosts who welcome them and ask how many are in their party, and then lead to a table. Their meals and drinks are brought to them by volunteer servers who move quickly to make sure each guest is immediately served, just like in the finest of restaurants. The meals are prepared with great care, and love, and always delicious.

After the meal, guests and volunteers are able to experience a worship service, with spirit-filled worship and a time of teaching from one of the pastors or a guest teacher–because you can’t feed the body and not the soul. After the service guests can exit the sanctuary (which is right next to the dining hall) and treat themselves to a delicious desert which has been carefully made and available on several large tables. When the guests have had their fill and are ready to leave, a bag from Victory’s food pantry awaits them as they exit. Items such as frozen pizza, breakfast bars, beverages, and high-efficiency light bulbs (among many others) are carefully packed for them to take home.

It’s quite easy to find Jesus in this soup kitchen, because, you see, the people we serve, we serve for Him. Just like He said in Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25.


From → Christianity

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