Tuesday, May 15, 2012

This is the Feast

Wednesdays are my favorite part of the week at work. We host the Lyndale Community Dinner every Wednesday at 6:00pm. Not the Zion Church Dinner. The Lyndale Community Dinner. And it really is.

Neighbors, ZOOM House residents, families from the ESL classes at Zion, low cost meal regulars, new visitors, and members of our congregation. Until now it's been funded by grants through the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, the church budget and donations collected at the dinner.

But the grants are drying up. We're having a hard time deciding how to make sure we can serve weekly through 2012 so granting organizations will want to support us again in 2013. Taking a twelve week break because you're $3,000 short doesn't look like an inspiring place to send money. So we're getting creative.

We've asked other congregations, organizations and local businesses to sponsor a Wednesday. That means they'll send a few volunteers to help serve and a check to cover the costs for one week this summer. We're almost halfway to our goal and I'm looking forward to sharing this weekly ritual with newcomers and partners in ministry. It's the most lively and wonderful and challenging part of my week and I'm glad we'll be able to keep gathering all year long.

Some of you have asked for me to share a story or two about Zion here at tangled up in grace. Turns out, most of the stories I want to share happen in this room with these people. There's Devin* who's hard to understand because he's had so many strokes, but I'm learning to speak his language. Last Wednesday he told me that he has a girlfriend up north and Chrissy* here in the cities. I reminded him that Chrissy is no good for him - that she steals his money to buy booze and gets him in trouble with his landlord. Then he asked me if he was committing adultery having two girlfriends. We had a long talk about faithfulness (and the zip code rule, which he found sensible) and then we worked on singing. Devin has a really hard time changing pitches and loves trying to match my notes.

There's a couple that cracks me up. Larry* and Tammy* are the odd couple of dinner. His skin is dark and his a small, wiry guy who reminds me of Flavor Flav. She's pale and beyond heavy set with eyes that barely open and a slow saunter that keeps Larry patient. He's affectionate and funny and loves coming to Recovery Worship. She's shy and loves a second helping at dinner, so she usually stays in the dining room while he sings and prays across the hall. And his prayers are always filled with gratitude for Tammy.

The dinner is a great opportunity for me to mingle with residents from ZOOM House next door. The building has 22 apartments and it's mostly single moms living there. 6-8 of them come to dinner consistently and I'm getting to know their kids by name, too. I've worked hard at laying the groundwork for these relationships and on Wednesday night five of them greeted me before I could come say hello to them. They're comfortable around me. They know my son. One woman asked if we could speak privately, then shared about things going on in her life and asked for prayer. When we finished praying, she had tears in her eyes and said, "I've never had a pastor before. This is alright." Yes, it is.

There are some troublemakers. Sometimes I'm pitting out by 6:30pm because I need to keep Garrison* away Devin's table and Bobby* has shown up drunk or manic. But they all know they can only stay if they're safe and respectful. When that standard is challenged, they have to leave. It gets hairy for a moment and some demand more of my attention than they should. I've written about the underbelly of All Are Welcome and I still wrestle with that constantly here at Zion. It's exhausting. But even the troublemakers know the rules and at the end of the day, all they want is a good meal and a little dignity.

Most people are done eating and just sitting around gabbing when I make the announcement that Recovery Worship is starting across the hall. Some wander in only if they've finished their food. Some come every single week because they love evening prayer or because their group home requires they attend a recovery activity. In that case, I sign their sheet to prove their presence.

Sometimes we have a small group - just eight people sprinkled across twenty hopeful chairs arranged in a circle. But sometimes most of them fill. And we sing a little louder. And it's nice to have so many different people there for different reasons. Because at recovery, we're all the same. We're all coming ready to proclaim God's healing to each other. Brokenness doesn't need to be translated through parables or clever sermon illustrations. We're so clearly broken that it's beautiful. And for 45 minutes, that beautiful brokenness is lifted up and released and we mend a little. I am so alive and forgiven and at peace on Wednesdays at 7:35pm.

We share communion during this service. It's homemade bread and grape juice. Jesse* calls it dessert, probably because he's wandered in late after having seconds at dinner just in time to hear the words of institution and smell the grape juice. Maybe he can smell it so well because he's blind and other senses are heightened. Or maybe he's messing with me. And so most weeks we have 8.5 in worship attendance. Or 14.5. Because sooner or later, Jesse is there and he counts, too. And to be fair, I'm only teasing him when I say that I write .5 in the record book that is kept for fun facts and grant applications.

I always round up because he is, in fact, Whole.

If you would like to make a financial gift to the Lyndale Community Dinner, you can! Any amount will add up to make a big difference for this summer. Consider volunteering or just come and eat with us. $250 covers all the costs of a Wednesday and $125 is the cost of food. You can feed a whole table of people for about $20 and that's amazing. Make checks payable to Zion Lutheran Church 128 W. 33rd Street Minneapolis, MN 55408 and write "LCD - Summer 2012" on the memo line. Or call me at the church office 612-824-1017 to learn more.

1 comment:

Meta Herrick Carlson said...

Thanks to all who responded to this post. I got lots of prayers and emails and comments and $$$ that confirmed I should keep sharing about the wonders of Zion here. Several of you made donations to the dinner that totaled more than $1,000. Wow. I'm beyond grateful.

Come visit anytime. Clearly everyone is welcome at this meal...and that means you too. Tomorrow night we have a baptism and a Kindergarten graduation cake. Just another Wednesday night in Lyndale. :)