Thursday, February 10, 2011
The Preacher’s Corner
‘Feeding the five thousand’ is gratifying
Members of my congregation assist in a supper ministry for the community sponsored by St. Joseph’s Church.
On Thursday evenings, every other month, we prepare and serve a meal in the parish hall of St. Joseph’s Church. It is called the Garden Café. I salute the nuns at St. Joseph’s for conceiving this idea. The sisters are a joy to know, and their commitment and energy to helping people in this community is boundless.
The purpose of the Garden Café is to bring people together. Some need a meal. Others need the friendship. All seem to enjoy the conviviality. It is good to see folks from all over town dining together. Everybody is invited; there is no test as to who is “deserving,” but we do know that if you build community, the root causes of poverty in a given area are diminished.
Some may just be like me: not “poor,” just “poor cooks,” and glad to see other people because we live by ourselves, or do not get out as often as we would like. Like the Savior’s banquet in the gospel, the Garden Café is for “whosoever will come,” and we are glad that lots of people do come. We wish that more would come.
Restaurants and grocers donate food for this ministry; the church groups come on Thursday afternoons to prepare and serve it. Some of the restaurants have been exceedingly generous. The quality and variety of food is amazing.
We have been pleased that so many different churches and other community groups have decided to take part. I would suppose that these different groups have had the same experience as ours.
We started out wondering if we could get ourselves organized and a meal put on the table. Somehow our group did, and as we gained confidence, we found that rich friendships began or grew among those from our church who participated, as well as with many of those from the community we served.
Last week as we were serving our meal, I wanted to say a few words to our group, but I decided to write down my thoughts and put them in this column, and offer them to all who take part in this ministry, or some other similar effort.
I feel that when a church rolls up its sleeves and does something for others, we are closest to the heart of Christ. If our little congregation could be remembered for just one thing, this is what I would choose.
Jesus was always doing something to help people, and it is because of His example that we conceive of the church’s work as “ministry.” Ministry ought to be primarily for others, not focused inwardly on ourselves.
I also feel gratified to see the other members of my congregation in action. They do things that I simply cannot, or at least do not know how to do. I would be at a loss to do the cooking or even man the dishwasher for groups as large as the ones we serve.
There are things I can do around our church: preach sermons, teach Sunday school, visit the sick. But it is good to see the other members practicing their ministries: it gives me fresh incentive to attempt my own.
Jesus gave Himself for the sins of the world, and no one else can do that. But we can all give ourselves for the needs of others, and when we do that, I think we are very near God’s heart.
Our church does not have much money or manpower, but we can do this, and I am thankful that the workers who come to the Garden Café seem so eager to assume their task.
As we were cleaning up after the most recent supper we served, I remarked, jokingly, “Well, we fed the five thousand tonight.” Of course, we hadn’t, as the group we cooked for numbered about 50. But over time it might add up to five thousand, and then we would feel in the company of our Savior and the disciples on that hillside in the long-ago.
For an inept cook like me, watching others who know what they are doing serve a delicious supper for our friends in the community seems like a miracle of a similar sort. It all adds up, and it is marvelous to behold.
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