Sunday, November 8, 2009

Local Soup Kitchen Serves Theology

Oh how often we go to serve and end up receiving service.

My church has a food ministry affectionately called "Soup Kitchen," although I haven't seen them serve soup. I've been going for about a month and have learned a lot. I often stand on a soap box (at least to preach at myself) about the growing theological divide in the church. I'm not talking about the much discussed divide between the church and the academy (aka, Jerusalem and Athens). Rather, I'm talking about the divide between the rich and the poor.

Friends, alongside the broccoli casserole, chicken pot pie, and store-made desserts, they're serving theology at that soup kitchen.

This last week I saw an older lady linger by the trash cans. My attention was focused on the people with whom I was eating; my peripherals paid her little attention. DJ had a heaping plate of seconds that he could not finish, so he got up to throw it away. At least, I think he intended to throw it out.

Instead of tossing the food in the garbage, he gave it to the lady lingering by the garbage. Maybe she asked for it. Maybe he offered it. Either way, he handed it and she took it. I saw her tip the plate over and let all of the food fall into her plastic bag. The ham, broccoli salad, and cole slaw slid off the plate into a gooey conglomeration in a plastic, grocery bag.

I wonder who else's leftovers were in that bag. Did she have any way to keep the food cold or secure from the bacteria we tupperware-laden people fear? How long did she have to carry that bag before she could set it down? Did she have anywhere to take it?

If my theology doesn't affect her life, then it is all for nought, my friends. We can argue about orthodoxy, the trinity, and The Shack until we're blue in the face, but time is running out on whether or not we can help people like that lady. I care about the theology that matters to her. The kind of theology that tells me to serve her food and keep her warm. The kind of theology that tells me to be Christ to her--which means to do Christ-like things to her, which means to eat with her, be her friend, and judge her not.

"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," Jesus said.

The only stone Jesus cast was a word of a loving, unconditional forgiveness.


Last week I also made the acquaintance of DJ and Shanika. We are probably about the same age and the young couple really warmed up to me and my friend Dave, who are a good 40 years younger than the next youngest volunteer. DJ was rubbing Shanika's belly and told me, with a grin as large as Cheshire cat's, that she was pregnant. Shanika turned and looked so proud and so fulfilled. Their young joy gave a new meaning to the cliché, "living on love."

Those two loved kids. They already have two young ones and they separately asked me and Dave if we had any. In their struggles to stay afloat, I imagine love really is what keeps them going--loving and being loved in return.

DJ also told us he was glad for his younger brother who was going into the marines. He wanted his brother out of this life and into the marines. I want to cry about how right DJ's desire might be. As a young man in Shelby, DJ's could easily have a life of poverty and gang violence in his life. DJ's brother could learn from the streets how to be violent and kill or he could learn it in the marines, where at least he would have plentiful food, health care, and the opportunity to go to college.

I'm not sure DJ's brother had the luxury of making a right decision. Perhaps he could get out of gang violence, but I am no one to judge, not being in his shoes. And how could he pass up food, shelter, health, and education, even if it means selling his body to the warring capitalist system? With little sight of a "right" decision, ethics is out the window.

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