Mark Cryderman

Who Comes to Dinner Church?

The invitations are made, people are invited, signs are posted, the room is prepared and the doors open – and THAT’s when we learn who shows up! 

Dinner Church is different than other, brick and mortar churches in that we never invite people to “our” building – we go to theirs. We make the sacrifice to accept potential discomfort in order to enter someone else’s world. Incarnation was never intended to be a one-time thing. Instead it should be repeated by anyone who follows Jesus- This is the power or incarnation!

We hoped people who were literally “hungry” would show up. 

Toni comes every week. She is a single mom and brings all 7 of her children. And two of their friends. Ten people crammed around a table meant for 6 – which actually multiplies the smiles and joy! Ten empty cups of dessert pudding at the end of the night! Ten stomachs full of food and laughter and hope. Toni rejoices because she provides an extravagant night out for her family and their friends! Our God is a generous God and this family feels it every Monday night.

While we wish we could provide sweet and flavorful drinks – we typically serve only water. Cold, ice filled thermoses of water! The most basic of drinks. And every week, at least one person says “This water is so good! I love this water!” Interesting. We didn’t add anything to it. We didn’t spend anything on it. We turned on the tap and filled the bucket.

As you may know, most drinks sold are designed to make you more thirsty. We keep drinking these colorful, fizzy and sugary substances thinking at first that it is solving our thirst. It pretends to be something it’s not. We fill up – but aren’t fulfilled.  We need the real thing, that’s for sure.

At Dinner Church, programs and professionalism quickly give way to telling stories about Jesus. Knowing Him is our highest priority. It’s simple, I know- but simple satisfies.

At Dinner Church, programs and professionalism quickly give way to telling stories about Jesus. Knowing Him is our highest priority. It’s simple, I know- but simple satisfies. Click To Tweet

Gwen lives alone. She attends Catholic Mass on Sundays but can’t hear or understand the priest. She sits alone among strangers.  But at Dinner Church, her voice is heard! She asks questions (usually by interrupting – imagine!). She voices her thanks to God.  She makes ridiculous comments – bringing us all to laughter (although that is rarely what she intends!). Gwen is welcomed and known.

Gwen usually dines alone. No one invites Gwen to dinner. Thanks to Meals on Wheels, this 83 year old gets a meal a day. But in this musty, joy filled basement, Gwen is part of the body of Christ.

Eight teens jam in around a table, shifting and pushing and their table cloth scoots all jimmy-waggled halfway off the table. Ten seconds after coming in, they dominate the room. Several of them have matching shirts. I comment: “Cool shirts – what team are you a part of anyway?” Their answer? “Uh, no team. We found these in the center’s ‘clothes closet’ and thought it’d be fun to wear them.”

No Armani, Versace, or even Old Navy. But free.

We don’t dress up at Dinner Church. Every-day clothes reign. No one feels embarrassed about what they do or do not have. We are all equals around the table.  Rich and poor alike find some salad stuck in their teeth. We are clothed in Christ – which is all that matters.

We don’t dress up at Dinner Church. No one feels embarrassed about what they do or do not have. We are all equals around the table. We are clothed in Christ - which is all that matters. Click To Tweet

Avion is 11 years old. Last week he came without his mom (who was home, sick), but with his little brother and sister. He ate his food and listened intently to the story of Jesus. In this story, Jesus said “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Just 2 months ago, Avion’s step-dad died suddenly. Fear permeates his home. Jesus’ stories of life and death are not “ho hum” – but meaningful and real. The sins of others attack Avion’s life. But on that Monday, Avion was the hero. We packed his “to go” boxes especially full and that night, he was the provider for his family!

Of course, every week there are people trapped in the impossible web of drug and alcohol addiction. They can’t get out. And their addictions defile their minds and bodies to the extent that most people look past or through them. Though they’ve imprisoned themselves in their addictions – there is no judgment here. Outside, they are avoided. But around the table – there is love.

So, who comes to Dinner Church? The hungry, thirsty, lonely, those in need, the sick and the trapped.

Who comes to Dinner Church? “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

In other words: Jesus.

Mark Cryderman

Mark Cryderman

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