Look closely and you will see two young adults who are home on break from college who came along. One of them said to me just before we took this picture that if I would pay for her bus ticket to Omaha and back she would come back every month to serve this meal to the homeless.
I’ve been around youthful enthusiasm enough to know when someone is just excited to be in the moment and when a certain experience has been something life transforming. I sincerely believe this young woman has experienced serving the homeless, working together with her friends and recognizing that her involvement makes a important impression on youth much younger than her as life shaping, life forming, life transforming.
I’m not sure why this is true for her, but I’ve heard from many others that times of service like serving the meal at Simpson Shelter have made a lasting impression upon their lives. Perhaps, it is an opportunity to recognize something we all share in common as men and women, youth and adults, people from Eden Prairie and Chanhassen and people from nowhere spending one of the coldest nights on record in a homeless shelter. As they say, “We all need to eat.” But the food is just the port of entry, the place of connection, something we don’t have to reflect upon to understand.
There is something more that sticks with the youth and many of us who put ourselves in positions to experience the world in a different, somewhat intimidating way. A big part of whatever that is, is that we don’t need to feel so intimidated. There may well be reasons to be cautious in this environment, maybe there are a few of what we might think of as precarious characters sitting around the tables but when your serving a meal; when you are being a servant, fear often fades away.
Before we left Andrew, our youth director, Carrie the pastor at Discovery, and I played rock-paper-scissors to decide who got to pray. Carrie won the honors of praying and her prayer is sticking with me. She said something like, “May we see the face of Christ in those we serve tonight.” I’m thinking that even more than the sense that you are responding to a need of another human being, even more than having a good time with your friends, maybe even more than the thought that you are making a difference in someone’s life; even more than any of these reasons, the reason that serving at Simpson Shelter is so transformative to so many youth and to others is that they go there and to their surprise, and although they may not recognize him, they see Jesus. And if I believe one thing it is this; when you see Jesus fear fades away.
This Sunday in worship we will renew our baptismal vows. The Message will be focused on the willingness of Jesus, who it is said is without sin, to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. I suppose one take away from this thought is that if Christ is willing to do that; why should we be surprised to find him staring back at us from across the serving line at places like the Simpson Shelter.
Keep the Faith!