Daily Devotion Focusing on the Missions Supported by First Pres
[Over the next month, Sarah, John, and I want to lead the friends and members of First Pres on a little devotional tour of some of the missions and ministries we support as a congregation. Some happen right here on our church property, while others literally stretch our souls around the globe. We invite your prayers for all these ways that we are the church in mission.]
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’
Matthew chapter 25, and Jesus’ teaching about the sheep and the goats, rests at the heart of many of our ministries, like our Saturday Soup Kitchen.
I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat …. For whenever you did this to the least of these, you did it to me.
I long to hear those words from the lips of our Lord. And I have heard faint echoes as I hand food across a serving table at the Saturday Soup Kitchen.
This ministry was launched in 2004, growing from a Thanksgiving Day feeding that was spearheaded by our church youth. After surveying the community, we realized that the one day a week where the hungry in Winter Haven were not being fed was Saturday. And every Saturday (even when we have been confronted by hurricanes and a global pandemic), every Saturday since 2004, hungry people have been fed by Christ’s followers at our Saturday Soup Kitchen. Our youth have cooked and served. Our children have served alongside their parents and grandparents and other loving adults in the congregation. Single people and families, young, middle-aged, and older followers of Jesus from our church have fed hungry people here on Saturdays. And community groups and mission partners from other area churches have made sure there is a hot, nutritious, delicious meal offered in Christ’s love to anyone who shows up at 4 PM on Saturday.
Money from the Deacon’s Fund in the church budget, and from our Three Cents a Meal offering helps to cover the $200 a week in groceries. And Publix donates the bread and desserts every week. And the prayers and participation by our whole congregation makes sure that “the least of these” are treated just like we would treat our Lord.
Thank you, God, for letting us practice how we would treat your Son Jesus as we cook, and serve, and care each Saturday. And thanks for letting us hear the whispers of your grace in Jesus’ name. Amen.