On the evening of December 23rd, 2009, South Main hosted a dinner in the church gym for some of our less-fortunate midtown neighbors. Church members prepared delicious barbecue, and many South Main members spent the afternoon and evening preparing plates of meats, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and dessert. The line of guests snaked its way out the door of the Activity Center and down the sidewalk to the street. We served over 100 visitors.
While the warm meal was doubtless appreciated, there was another aspect of the event that, I believe, was even more significant to our guests. Members of the South Main family sat at the tables with our guests during dinner. We listened to their stories and shared some of our own. We talked and laughed and shed a few tears. For that evening, we made our guests a part of our family.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the evening was the broad range of South Main members who participated, from children in elementary school all the way up to senior adults. Our visitors learned that South Main is a place of people who care. Our members were reminded of the grace we have received, and the joy of sharing that grace in the simplest of ways. We recalled Christ’s words that “whenever you have done these things for one of the least of these, you have done these things for me.”
As the meal ended, we gave our guests small backpacks, packed leftovers for them to take away and share, and gave them warm sleeping bags to combat the night chill. With gratitude, they shook our hands. With hugs, and a few more tears, we accompanied them back out onto the streets.
I thought about the many blessings I have received – blessings unearned, blessings given me through grace. I thought about what my children might have learned from joining in the evening’s meal and fellowship. I prayed that our visitors had felt, and would continue to feel, “our love, our care, our kinship, and our hopes.” I gave thanks for grace received, and for the joy of grace shared.
I look forward to new opportunities for this mission-minded church to give grace.