I recently lead a group of parishioners to a place called The Banquet. The Banquet is a non-profit feeding ministry in Sioux Falls that relies solely on volunteer help and funding from outside sources (nothing from government entities). Many groups are church groups (like ours). Some are companies and civic organizations. With the homeless population so high along with the number of people living in poverty, The Banquet is a welcomed site for many who call Sioux Falls home.
For Salem and Belmont Lutheran Churches (where I serve) and Betheny Lutheran Church, this was our third year making the 90 mile trip to serve supper to nearly 400 people (a quarter of which are children). Duties include: greeting the the guests, helping carry trays for parents and guests with disabilities, serving food, washing dishes, pouring coffee/milk/water, wiping down tables, etc. It takes about 35 – 40 people to pull an evening off like this.
My job this year (as it has been for the last couple years) was carrying trays for guests who needed assistance. When I wasn’t carrying trays I would turn to look out at the dining room. What I saw gave me goosebumps and feelings that are hard to describe. So I won’t try to describe them. Any attempt would ruin the moment. Rather let me say this: Week in and week out I see these parishioners in worship. I preach the gospel to them. I see them downtown having coffee. I encounter them at the grocery store. All is fine in our little world of Jackson. There is food on our tables and clothes on our backs. And our biggest worry is wondering what we’re going to have for supper. But at The Banquet I saw these same people in a different light; many outside their comfort zones. They were serving those who have different worries than us like: "Where is our next meal going to come from?"; "Where will I sleep tonight?"; "How will I keep my children warm?" It is hard for me to imagine having worries like that.
Sitting in front of a compter scene in a warm comfortable office has a tendency to blur reality. But for a couples hours that night at The Banquet I saw reality. I saw a world that we too often turn a blind eye to. That night at The Banquet I experienced feelings that I won’t describe to you. I watched children of God serving other children of God. They were providing for needs and showing love through their actions. I watched people who could have stayed home in their comfortable easy chairs. I saw people humbling themselves through pouring coffee or picking up after guests. I watched people leave their comfort zones to listen to a guest who just needed someone to listen. And as I watched all of this I experienced those feelings that I won’t describe to you and wondered how I could have possibly been so selfish. Maybe you can relate to what I am talking about.
Why do I write about this? I think it is because I don’t want to forget what that night felt like. I don’t want to forget that their are people out there that worry about things I take for granted. I don’t want to forget that there are people who don’t have it as easy as I do. I want to remember.
I think we can only experience feelings we won’t describe when we leave our comfort zones. Because outside our comfort zones the Holy Spirit smacks us in the face with the reality of creation. Outside our comfort zones we truly experience life. And when we experience these feelings in that chaos out there, words have a tendency to ruin things. So that is way I am so vague today. That is why I am being so "secretive". It’s not to hide anything, but to move you to action.
Believe me, I really want to describe those feelings I won’t describe to you. I want you to experience what I experienced. I want you to feel what I felt that night. But words are not the answer (sounds ironic, especially when I keep rambling on and on). Do you want to experience those feelings that I won’t describe to you; ones that come only through the Holy Spirit? Well…then leave your comfort zones. It is that easy. The people who truly need your help cannot be found in your recliner while you eat a warm pizza while watching football. Instead go out and serve at a soup kitchen, volunteer at your local food shelf, visit some shut-ins or wherever the Holy Spirit leads you. Encounter people in need and reach out to them. And while doing so…experience those feelings I won’t describe to you. That is the essense of giving yourself to someone in need.
So if you are ever in the Sioux Falls area, stop by The Banquet (8th Street and Indiana) and see if they need a hand. I promise you…you won’t regret it. -EDH-