In the Gospels Jesus says, and here I paraphrase, Come, the banquet is prepared for you.
Last night at Christ Episcopal Church, we hosted our annual Community Thanksgiving Meal: turkey, dressing, mashed and sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls and butter, and pies of all kinds, including pumpkin, apple, and pecan. Yummers!
For days we'd issued invitations, including to hungry patrons at Well of Life, the downtown food pantry that is now a Jubilee Ministry of the Episcopal Church. We got the word out through our newsletter, on the church web site, through announcements at church. We spread the word in the neighborhood.
And yesterday afternoon at 3.15pm, people started arriving for the meal. By 5.45pm the cloisters outside the parish hall were full of guests.
One man came in his wheelchair. Some were homeless. Most were poor. Some hadn't had a good meal in a while. Our guests comprised elderly people, teenagers, young parents with their babies. Some of our guests had come last year, others were new to us this year.
Once the doors of the parish hall opened at about 5.45 pm, so many people crowded in that our youth minister and chief meal organizer, Donya Ross, whispered to me, "Say a prayer that we have enough food."
I did. Miraculously, we had enough food, just barely. (Note for next year: get more turkeys.)
We served more than three-hundred people, including a comparatively small number of parishioners, most of whom had come primarily to help. Other parishioners prepared pans of food and dropped them off all week long.
Virtually the whole youth group turned out to serve food and drinks and to clean and reset tables. I am proud of our young people, who have huge servant hearts.
It was a Christ Church community effort for the good of the larger community.
I enjoyed going from table to table, sometimes with my grand daughter Christa in my arms, welcoming peopleto the church. I did as much visiting as I could, aided in this ministry of hospitality by the parishioners who sat at the tables with our guests.
Many of the guests came up to me and said, "Thank you, pastor. And thanks to your church."
I heard one of our struggling members from the neighborhood say to a friend of his, "This is my church." He beamed with pride.( I did, too.)
In the Gospels, Jesus also says, "Well done good and faithful servants."
Well done people of Christ Episcopal Church. Once more you have responded to the Savior's call, which, as our mission statement puts it, is "To know Christ and to make Christ known."