“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'”
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:31-40)
The youth ministry at Holy Cross Lutheran in Colorado Springs once served warm soup and stale bread to hundreds of homeless people in downtown Amarillo, Texas. While the director of the soup-kitchen trained and prepared us for our shift, he never referred to the people we would be serving as “homeless.” He only called them “royalty.” Eventually one of our fearless freshmen asked, “Why do you keep calling them royalty?” Our trainer answered, “Because if I call them homeless then you won’t serve them as well.” He was right! That afternoon we served hundreds of homeless people as if we were the wait staff at a five-star establishment. Our teens stood at the ready eager to escort our guests to their seat, fill drinking glasses, and replace used napkins. It was a wonderful experience.
Once we returned to Colorado Springs we realized that we could replicate exactly what we experienced in Amarillo. Since then, every Saturday before Thanksgiving, we host a “Feast Fit for a King” in our Fellowship Hall. Anyone in the community is welcome but we target our city’s “royalty.”
Since we have a community food pantry at our church we publicize the event to the people who come to our church looking for food weeks before hand. We simply ask them to give us a contact name, a number of people who might attend, and a phone number. Once we have our list of “royalty” we immediately let the members of our congregation know how many people we’ll be serving. Beyond printing announcements in our worship folder and newsletter we make use of our congregation’s “giving tree” (picture a Christmas tree that we leave up ALL YEAR LONG). When a ministry within our congregation has a specific need, we make “ornaments” for that tree. People can come to the tree and pick off an ornament or two, indicating that they’ll purchase that item and bring it back to church by next Sunday. Any ornaments left on the tree means that we’ll need to head to the store as a youth ministry and purchase those supplies. There are usually one, two or three ornaments that remain. We use this tree for the Easter Breakfast, Vacation Bible School, Thanksgiving Dinner and the Children’s Ministry Christmas Program (to name just a few).
Now, armed with donated supplies, we meet on Saturday morning to start cooking the food and decorating our fellowship hall. One man in our congregation has been in charge of baking the turkey as far back as I
can remember. He shows up around 5:00 a.m. and starts baking those turkeys. We cut no corners; we spare no expense. We serve a full-blown Thanksgiving dinner with all of the fixings: turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, green beans, corn, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and even pumpkin pie.
We begin serving at 11:00 a.m. and finish at 2:00 p.m. We never ask for the “royalty” to pay for the meal. We never ask for a donation. We provide seconds (and thirds) as long as we still have food to give.
We typically have around 100 people file through during our three hours of service. I have no doubt in my mind that we matter to every king and queen who attends our feast, but I’ll never forget the small group of princes and princesses that attended two years ago. As I was sitting at one of the tables simply talking to some of our guests I caught out of the corner of my eye a group of five siblings, walking hand in hand toward our church. They came to our door and knocked, waiting for permission to enter.
As I approached the door, the youngest pressed her face on the glass desperately attempting to see what awaited her inside. As I opened the door I asked, “Are you here for the feast?”
“Yes,” the oldest boy explained.
“Are your parents coming?”
All of the children looked to the oldest boy wondering if I wouldn’t allow them in without parents.
“Do they need to be here? They both work.”
“No they don’t need to be here. I was just wondering if they were coming, too. Come on in.”
For the next hour those five children ate and ate and ate. Several of our youth took turns sitting with the children cleaning up spills and laughing at knock-knock jokes. I’ve never seen children eat so much food in my life! Eventually one of the seniors in our ministry asked, “Can we make some to-go bags for them to take home? I think we’ll even have some whole pies we can send home with them.”
“Of course,” was my immediate answer. “Give them as much as they can carry.” The best part of the day was when the kids were heading out the door and Sarah asked, “Wait! Do you have a Bible?”
Their answer was, “no.” Sarah bolted into our children’s ministry area and found the newest children’s Bible off the shelf.
“Read this to your little brother and sisters,” Sarah sharply said to the oldest boy.
“Yes, ma’am.” They headed down the street determined to get their treasures home. We haven’t seen them since, but that’s okay. I’ll always cherish the picture of a small child walking away from our church with a Bible in one hand and whole pumpkin pie in the other.
Published October 2013