But the real reason I want to encourage you to try to get to church by 5:45 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. or so, are the people. It’s sorta’ like a fellowship time that goes on for a while longer and it’s before church. It’s a place to meet old friends and just be around others. I usually have a bowl of soup at one table and then go around to the other tables and visit. Others have called this “working the room,” but for me it’s hard to call what I do work. Last night on my wandering through the maze of tables and deliciously different aromas, I noticed something that might tempt you to come to a soup supper and stay for worship.
I started my evening sitting with Jack and Lillian two of our “more mature” members. Jack was having the tomato bisque and I was having a little of the white chicken chili. It was good to see Lillian, who has been waiting for spring to venture out and chose tonight as one of her first adventures after a long winter. She was having the stuffed pepper soup and saw that I had taken just a little of the chili. She said, “You need more than that, did you see the split pea up there? I’m getting some of that next. I think you should get some of that too.” And so I did. Having split pea soup set me to thinking, don’t ask me why but I wondered, “Does eating split pea soup count as a vegetable?”
I used this question as a conversation starter at the other tables. It worked pretty well. The answers varied from, “Why not?” to “No, it’s a carb.” The carb answer came from the nutritionist, so I guess it is not. I landed at a table with a kid who is about 3 and she was eating her chicken noodle soup, which is what every kid seems to eat. (We had some homemade chicken noodle soup last night but usually it comes straight out of a can and they still eat it.) Anyway I was watching as this three year old stuffed the noodles into her mouth instead of slurping them as some of us do. I’m just saying it was interesting.
It was about 6:30 and I needed a little time to move myself emotionally from watching a 3-year-old stuff noodles into her mouth to leading folks in a quiet reflective worship experience. It’s interesting to watch folks move from enjoying all that goes on at a soup supper to sitting quietly in the sanctuary as this calming music is played. And what is interesting to me is that I sit up front there thinking, I wonder if we could have one without the other.
The answer is of course you can, people leave after eating and people come into worship without having eaten. But there is something about what happens when we move from one to the other, sort of backwards than what we do every Sunday.
Maybe there is something about being together: talking, laughing, eating together that prepares us to talk with, to laugh with, to when we share the sacrament, eat with God. I think it opens us up to receiving the acceptance, solace, love and whatever else we may need to fill the empty and lonely parts of our lives that the soup, no matter how good it is, or the people, not matter how friendly or understanding they are just cannot.
I think that’s it. People leave worship, after having come to a soup supper filled. They are filled with an experience that sustains them for the week ahead. May you find a way to be filled with God’s presence today.