Funny how things work out.
Back in the early years of my walk in the Christian pathway, any interest in doing actual good works of service to people in community was minimal. By minimal, I’m probably being very kind to myself. Love was a nice concept in theory, but didn’t need to interfere with the life I was looking to eek out which had little to do with that kinda stuff.
Thank God for the journey that took place that made things rather different.
Recently, it was my honour to be part of a project with some brothers to simply offer free cups of hot soup to people in our community. The temperatures were still of such that a cup of hot vegetable soup in the evening would really bring welcome relief and warmth to passers-by.
Despite the experience I’ve had in social ministries, I must admit, I had a few concerns.
I was concerned that it would be seen only as an initiative to get bums on seats in the weekly church meetings. That was a concern as much about our motives as a team doing it, as those getting the soup. I was concerned that people would shun the effort as being tacky and not meeting a need. I was concerned that we didn’t know enough about the area to do something like this. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be brave enough to strike a conversation with the strangers I would meet.
As I said, there were a few concerns. I can appreciate those who don’t do such things – whether it’s a soup kitchen, prison visit, hospital visit, elderly home visit or the like. I can appreciate that such concerns and many others can make doing something rather off-putting.
What helped considerably in overcoming the concerns was a simple instruction that I heard Jesus say in my head.
Just give him a cup of soup.
The deal of being light in the world is about offering love – offering it with no strings attached, offering it, because love isn’t love until it’s given away. (Thanks to Commissioned for that lyric!)
What made other social ministries so enjoyable in the past, was the joy of simply giving. It was about giving time, giving space, giving resources if required, but especially about giving love in not imposing, but inviting an experience of the loving kind. Just giving that could muster the range of reactions, but as it was love-propelled there was enough of a cushion for consolation at set-backs and disappointments.
Here, then, was another chance to simply give. Of course there’s the wisdom and discernment to develop something more if the opportunity comes, but even if that doesn’t arise, just giving was sufficient.
The soup-giving deal wasn’t just about giving to the poor, destitute and homeless. It was about giving soup to anyone who wanted a cup of soup. Yet it was of no surprise that a large number of people who accepted the soup happened to be people who appeared poor and destitute.
It was not just about people coming to our soup pot to get some of the good stuff. A highlight for me was going to a spot where I knew some of those who like to while their time away on cider would congregate. Sure enough there were a few nursing their cans carefully and ruminating on their issues. On offering them some soup, some said yes but didn’t want to go around the corner to get it. I was happy to go get it for them. As I returned, the few had grown in number. Some of the additions were people who had already accepted some soup on their way up. When I handed over the cups to those who asked and made my way I overheard a comment of how there were some good people in the world.
That comment didn’t make me feel good about myself. It made me feel good that a glimpse of the light, life and love of Christ had shined for those in need to recognise it. It wasn’t people falling down and crying they yielded to the Risen Lamb, but it was love in action. The hope and desire is that over time people will know our presence as just looking to meet needs however we can as an expression of the love of Jesus who met all our needs at Calvary.
All because we don’t allow the concerns to overwhelm us, but just give him a cup of soup.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden