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My favorite Christmas present this year is a big Dutch oven. Porcelain enamel on cast iron, it weighs more than my husband, I think. But we are looking forward to the lovely aromas and wonderful flavors that will warm up our kitchen during these winter months.

And shelves of canned goods from the harvest next fall will fill up straight out of this great pot. Beef stews, chilis and chicken soups dreamed up by Ken and I and my Samsung tablet will fill our bellies and satisfy our souls. Kitchen tables are wonderful places to generate and enjoy life with people you love and care about. And a pot of soup brings us all together.

We know we get to do this because we can. Because we have the resources even in retirement to feed and care for ourselves and those who gather in our kitchen around our table with us from time to time. We have a small home with a monthly mortgage and if we are careful, and make an extra payment or two, we may actually own it in a few years. A moderately newer car (another payment!), our old CRV (we own this one — yeah!), money for gas and repairs, and I can head for Madison to Costco for vacuum-packed rotisserie chicken, and to Penzey’s Spices for the coriander and cumin seeds and Italian herbs that regularly find their way into our soup pot.

But there are so many folks without the basic resources that are required if you are going to gather around a pot of soup on the kitchen table.

A new soup kitchen opened its doors in Portage last Friday at the Episcopal Church, where a crew of folks worked together. Chef Capone and Mark Goldworthy prepped a 40-quart pot of great Italian soup, while the rest of us laid out the bread, stacked cups and glasses, and plugged in coffee pots. The numbers who came were not as large as we hoped, but nevertheless smiles and conversation filled Couper Hall.

Because I believe the word of love will always spread, the number of folks who come to share a meal around tables at the Friday Soup Kitchen will grow. Just as the numbers of folks who followed Jesus and his teaching grew.

Luke’s Gospel story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand would have been pretty tough to accomplish around a 40-quart soup pot without access to shelves of soup bowls, a big bin of spoons, stacks of cups and glasses and sinks to wash everything up. The disciples were overwhelmed by the number of hungry folks scattered across the hillside and the grocery store was a long walk away. “Send the crowd away.” But Jesus gave them their marching orders. “You give them something to eat.”

I’d like to think we were not as clueless as the disciples. After all, we have already decided to put the soup on and open the doors. But we do all struggle with God’s word of love and the hope we are to carry with us. Among those who come to the Friday soup kitchen for lunch will be folks who lack the resources for a kitchen in a home with a cast-iron soup pot, or a Costco membership, or a car they can afford to keep on the road to the store (insurance!), or the cash for Penzeys Spices and groceries. “You give them something to eat.”

The work of love before us is tough, but God’s invitation to love and feed and care for each another is all inclusive and the unbounded horizon of God’s justice beckons. The invitation is yours. The welcome is wide. Come.

The Rev. Vicki Warren is pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Portage.

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