the folks who followed in the Way of Jesus had come together, wondering what they were going to do now that Jesus was gone – he had lived and died and lived again before ascending into heaven. The people he had taught and inspired were left blinking and looking around at each other and saying, “Well, what do we do now?” They had come together for the Jewish festival of Pentecost, or Shavuot in Hebrew. Shavuot is the festival for the first fruits of the harvest, when Jewish folks take the first fruits of the harvest and, in gratitude, offer them to God. When they came together, what bloomed and fruited and burst out was the first fruits of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit burst out in all its abundance and filled them and overflowed as they flowed out with the power to do what Jesus had been empowering them to do: to receive and to share the Good News of God’s love and mercy, to receive and to share healing of mind, body, soul, and society, to receive and to share food for the body and food for the soul. To offer what we have to offer, and see it blessed and broken and given and multiplied.
I want to take today to celebrate and to express gratitude for the community lunch ministry that we at this church get to share on Wednesdays. We share this with several other churches so that every day there is a nourishing hot meal available at lunch time to anyone and everyone. Generosity and gratitude with food is a language of the spirit that everyone understands. It is a way of receiving and sharing the Good News of a God of love and mercy. Our volunteers come from all different walks of life. Our guests come from all different walks of life. Everyone is welcome, in peace. There’s a sense I hope that we’re all in it together. There’s a donation jar for those who can offer something in that way. So there isn’t an expectation or an assumption about those of us who are sharing in the meal and why we’re there. You know, for instance, when Whitman was building those new dorms some of the workers would come for soup, and that was great. We’re just a bunch of folks who have come together for good homecooked soup and salad and the best buttered toast and maybe a little something sweet, and some heartfelt fellowship. And I think it’s safe to say that this is a ministry for our volunteers as well as for our guests. We’re all receiving and giving. We all have ways that we are in need and ways that we have gifts to offer. So, it’s less important we hear me rattling on, and more important we hear from some of the folks whose dedicated, tireless, good-hearted work as volunteers makes it all happen. Before I invite up Galen Unruh to share some of his reflections, Let me read some of the reflections from some of our regular volunteers, I got when I asked them why this is ministry is important to them. Judy Chacon is a central part of our leadership team, along with Linda Schoop and Priscilla Ingebrigsten. Judy says that for her serving in the soup ministry is important to her because it’s: “an opportunity to respond to my Lord’s call to serve others I am given a purpose for my time and energy Serving is a blessing to me – I feel humbled and joyful to serve This is fun. There’s a rewarding fellowship that happens when we come together to provide support to the community. We gain understanding as we interact with the complexities of our community. Hopefully we are stretched to be better citizens and strive to live into our Christianity.”
Nancy Berlier was the lead volunteer coordinator for a couple of years: “This is what we should be doing. To me it’s just basic. And to me the basics that are very important. One of the things Jesus did so often was he fed people. He went out and fed the people. Basic. So basic. And what a difference it makes. Just orating and just going on is not what’s most important. Going out and being as Jesus was, that’s what’s most important, just being with people. That’s what I taught in the Sunday school classes when I taught for many years – Jesus’ central teachings. To me it was so important that our church supported this. It is important that there are people who are not members of our church who come and volunteer. It’s a community thing. This says that you folks are doing what we believe in. Okay, we’re doing the right thing.”
Nancy names one of the many blessing of this ministry is that we have folks from other churches jumping into our kitchen with us, folks who aren’t religious but believe in the values of this, college students, our church’s youth who have prepared soup before, other high school students – you may have seen in the paper a celebration of scholarships that Ana and Isabel Muñoz received for college – they’re sisters who are homeschooled who have been regular volunteers with us. Sharing food is such an opportunity for multiple generations and abilities– there’s something everyone can do – from kids to … Nancy Ball volunteered into her 90s – she’s had to take a break now. But donated to get a new kitchen floor in honor of Nancy Berlier. Our kitchen itself was designed years ago by Shirley Fouts who ran that kitchens for the schools, and who’s still raising a ruckass in her 90s at the Oddfellows Home – that kitchen is a gift that keeps giving. But back to the younger generations:
Patricio Morales says: “Ever since I remember I’ve always like helping people. Growing up I watched my mom do it a lot. She would work at the food band and volunteer at the church. Since I was a little guy naturally I had to go with her. Seeing the look of my mother’s face I knew she was feeling something by helping others. For me it’s the same. It makes sense to me to volunteer at places where the clientele has their needs met. That’s why I volunteer at the prison and at the soup lunch It may sound selfish but I look at it as a two-way street. I’m getting my needs met by gaining a sense of accomplishment by helping others. Knowing that I’ve accomplished that makes me it makes me feel exceptionally better about myself. And the people we serve are getting their needs met by way of nourishment. I like helping out at the soup kitchen and I’m going to continue to do it for as long as I can, because it makes me feel good.”
That two-way street is vital. That’s part of what makes this a Christian ministry – we all are in need and we all have something to give. And when the Spirit of Christ is at work, we all are fed in the ways that we need. And it feels good.
Kari Miller sums this up. She told me: “What happens here feeds body and soul for everyone involved.”
(Gratitude to Dr. Rachel Elfenbein for the idea of this service)