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Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking Meals

It's an age old practice, especially in community churches. Someone is sick or experiences a death in the family. To show their love and support, and help ease some of life's burdens, the ladies in the church take meals to the family home.

Typically they pass a sign-up sheet around, or someone makes calls to develop a schedule so they know who is cooking for the family and when. For years now, my wife has participated. We've never gotten a meal when we were in distress. Sometimes I thought that was rather odd. At any rate, we've had the privilege of sharing some of our home cooking with lots of families over the years.

But no more. It seems the practice is coming to an end. There's a new practice in town. It's moving through modern churches, especially in big cities. It's a meal service. So say someone in your church gets sick and it's decided that the church family will bring meals to the shut-ins.

But instead of anyone actually cooking and taking meals to the family home, someone at the church will organize a "meal service." In one version, everyone just gives money and then the family is told to order out for each meal to be provided. In other version, web sites like,, or are referred to. Everyone in the church goes to the selected delivery service and signs up to sponsor a meal for the target family.

Now I'm sure some people think this is a good idea. As you might guess, I am not one of them. I suspect, very strongly, that it misses the point. When traditional churches took home cooked meals to families in need, they were (or are) providing something that goes well beyond food. While it may be argued that you can love on someone by simply buying their dinner over a web site, I will argue that it's a different kind of love - if it is love at all.

When my wife or I go to the trouble of planning a meal for you and cooking our favorite recipes for you, we're not just giving you food. We're giving you something of ourselves. We're sharing a bit of our kitchen, a bit of heart. We're giving you our time. The fact that you'll have our casserole dish gives us a good excuse to see you again soon.

When we bring the meal, we can ask if you need anything else. We might bring you flowers, or a scented candle we just happen to have on hand. Perhaps we'll stay and visit with you a bit. If you're up for it, we might even stay and share the meal with you! We will be spending time, and spending ourselves on you. And you're certainly worth it.

Frankly, if I'm going to pay for a restaurant meal for you, I'd rather wait until you're better and we can go out to celebrate. Even if you're craving some restaurant dish from your sick bed, I'd rather go fetch it for you myself.

Folks, we really need to seriously examine this practice of taking meals to people we want to show love to. We're not just providing food for sustenance. Let's wake up to what's really going on. We're being relational with each other. To outsource this to a restaurant and/or a delivery service totally misses that point. So let's not do it.

Next time someone in your church needs a meal, get out the apron and the recipe book and whip up some love for them!

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