Community and Cheese Soup
By Reverend Felicia Zamora
When I first started working at AMOS HEALTH AND HOPE, one of the phrases I often said to short-term members was that community members are not going to remember how “hard you worked” on a project but how you took the time to build relationships with them.
In a minister’s life, it is the same principle of understanding that parishioners will not remember you for the eloquent sermons you wrote or if you recited the proper prayers during “joys and Concerns, but how involved were you in the lives of those who are part of the church body.
One of the ways to get to know people better is by drinking a cup of coffee or preparing and sharing a meal together in someone’s house. At church, it is easy to put on our best smile and behavior and say the correct phrases to those we meet. But coming into someone’s home is entering their sacred space.
According to Jewish tradition, “a meal is a time for intimacy, fellowship, and significant conversation.” Preparing a meal is a conversation starter where we can share laughter and jokes about not putting too much oil in the skillet or salt and pepper in the meat.
About a year ago, I shared a recipe for Nicaraguan cheese soup with a parishioner from the congregation. She and I prepared the meal together and were trying to figure out how long to leave the soup on the stove, how much milk we needed, what achiote is, and why people ate this during the season of Lent.
By preparing this meal, we ate it among ourselves, and we shared the soup with her friends. Neither she nor her acquaintances had this meal from another Latin American country. Still, eating something different allowed us to discuss the spices and vegetables used for the recipe. In the end, having soup together filled our stomachs, but more importantly, we were in fellowship with one another.
In many Gospel Stories, Jesus always shares a meal with his disciples and outsiders to teach important lessons. We learn from him about salvation, repentance, and friendship. Although we see Jesus working, whether healing ill people on the streets, inside synagogues, or teaching a lesson on the hill, he always took the time to slow down, share a meal together, and build relationships with community members.
One story that comes to mind is when Jesus is invited to Mary and Martha’s house. Martha is so busy trying to clean the home and gets caught up in all the chores, while her sister Mary is taking time to learn from the Savior. Martha gets angry, and you and I would feel the same. One wants to ensure that everything looks spick and span, that there is no dust in the crevices of our floor, or that there is no juice in the carpet, but one alone cannot do it, and where is help when you need it? Jesus reminds Martha that even though her job is essential, she needs to spend time with him.
We find Christ in the ordinary chores that we do; I encourage everyone then to slow down, invite a friend over, share a cup of coffee, eat a meal together, and create the opportunity to know them better; one can never know what we can learn from one another and be ministered to.