My Soup Kitchen Prayer

Celebrating a God who made Himself a servant first

Posted in , Jun 29, 2017

Soup kitchen prayer.

Saturdays, when I can, I volunteer at our church’s soup kitchen. It’s an amazing operation. Volunteers prep all day on Friday, preparing the hot meal, and then a host of angels descend on the parish house on Saturday morning to get ready for our guests.

People cut fresh bread, toss salads, cook peas and beans, set up tables, pour water, make coffee, arrange cookies, slice pies, fold napkins and set out the warming trays on the buffet table.

When I arrive there is usually a line of guests waiting for the feast. And it is a feast, a meal any of us would be proud to serve in our homes. But we’re doing it in a church, a place where we remember how Jesus said we would find Him in the least of these.

I don’t want to brag. I’m sure we could do so much more as a community of faith. The needs are so great. Fortunately, though, we’re not alone. We’re always grateful to be able to refer our guests to other soup kitchens and food pantries throughout town serving the needy.

When they come in, we’re busier than busy. I usually work the floor, putting down place settings, wiping tables, throwing away the trash. “Morning…welcome…thanks for coming…We’ll see you next week,” I mutter.

We serve about 200 people every Saturday. It seems like a minor miracle. We don’t advertise. We depend on word of mouth. One morning on my way to the Saturday Kitchen, as we call it, I passed a pan handler.

I dug in my pocket to give him a buck, then remembered. “Come to the soup kitchen at the church down the block. A free hot meal. It’s delicious.” How glad I was to see the guy sitting at one of the tables later that day.

But before any of the serving gets started, before we open the doors, before we dish out the food, we volunteers gather together in a circle, hold hands and have a moment of prayer.

Whenever I’m asked to lead the prayer, here are the words I use. “We thank You, Lord, for the opportunity to serve these guests. May we see You in them and may they see You in us.”

I’m not sure how that prayer is answered week after week. I suspect I’ll never fully know. But I hold that prayer close.

After all, we celebrate a God who made Himself a servant first of all. Serving like this is a good place to start. 

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