by Martha Keely
I could report the stats of attendance and meal costs associated with our Sunday Suppers. These figures can be obtained from our financial secretary. These dispassionate metrics do not reflect the many ways God’s grace and love shine during this time. Numbers would not indicate that Sunday Supper at St. John’s is about so much more than food.
Sunday Supper is a time when we are enabled to do God's will. It is a time of healing and a time when blessings are bestowed through the mercy and love of Christ. It is a time that the members of the Body of Christ share their unique gifts.
I’ve experienced God’s grace and love in St. John’s kitchen and gathering area. We enjoy preparing and eating a meal together. We enjoy having a reason and place to linger after the Gathering service before we head to Journey Groups or home. We enjoy having a place to abide before we enter a new week of work, school, and other earthly endeavors.
Most Sundays that I am in the kitchen at St. John's, I start the afternoon riddled with anxiety: Will there be enough food? Will there be too much food? Have I been a good steward of God’s provisions? Will the volunteers show up? Will the staff show up? Will there be enough vegetarian and gluten-free options? What about those with allergies? Will I burn the food? Will it be ready in time? Will I remember to put the bread and peanut butter out for those who don't care for the main food selection? …
Each Sunday, God bestows: God not only provides the food, the staff, and the volunteers, God salves my anxiety and shows his grace to all of us who are undeserving. God feeds us, God heals us, God quiets us.
It is a place where a single mother can bring her child to sit and absorb the fellowship of those helping to prepare the meal. I have witnessed the child transform from a quiet observer to one who recognizes the familiar faces of those cooking and has started to share his voice with us. My prayer is that it will be a place to grow his faith.
It is a place where staff members work to make our meals possible by setting up, tearing down, cleaning, and organizing. They do it not because they necessarily need to but because as one explained, “it keeps me humble.”
It is a place where a widow who escaped a war-torn country many decades ago to journey to a new country with young children and no knowledge of the language finds a church home and community. She appears weekly to cheerfully volunteer and help prepare the meal. She is always grateful to help and to be embraced.
It is a place where an octogenarian faithfully arrives early for her Journey Group to help prepare the ingredients to be used in the cooking: chopping onions, zesting lemons, stripping fresh oregano, washing lettuce … whatever is needed.
It is a place a dear one has found herself most comfortable in all her activities at the church. She always starts her time in the kitchen with a greeting to all and genuinely engages everyone. She makes us smile. She’s the Mary to my Martha.
It is a place where a leader of industry and father of four has an uncanny knack of showing up when help is most needed. He never hesitates to roll up his sleeves and get us back on track.
It is a place that our clergy, staff, and vestry recognize as a sacred and where our faith is strengthened.
God’s grace extends beyond the kitchen walls.
It manifests through the worship leaders who are last in line but graciously accept whatever is left to eat.
It shows forth in a fellow altar guild member who, without being asked, cleans up the altar and sanctuary, performing my duties for me, so it is not left to be done after supper.
It is reflected in the vegetarians who gratefully and graciously fill their plates with only bread and salad but fill their hearts with love.
God's grace is in the smile of the gluten-free diner who takes only a small plate of salad and nods appreciatively before joining her family and friends in fellowship.
God's love is present in the family who secretly disappears to the store after the main meal preparation to purchase cookie dough to bake for a yummy dessert for all to enjoy.
God’s love is present in the words of a youth who told me, “I really like having something tangible to do [to serve others at church].”
God’s love is the Body of Christ, made up of many parts, including children. Having finished choir practice and waiting for the Gathering service to begin, the children ask not only to help but to be a part of this amazing place of grace.
God’s love is the parishioner with limited resources who purposefully contributes spices because that’s what she is able to do to be a part of the Body of Christ.
The VP, MD, PhD, NP, DO, Mr., Mrs., Ms. … saints and sinners … all pilgrims who recognize that the body is more complete as a whole. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-31)
On Sunday evening we gather not only to eat but to share in God’s fellowship and share God’s love, in gratitude, for the love God shows us.
For this, I say, “Thanks be to GOD!”
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. -John 15:12