About 12 years ago, I met the Rev. Brad Smith. Brad told me an amazing story.
In 1990, he was an associate pastor at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. On Super Bowl Sunday, Brad offered a simple prayer as the church’s youth group settled down to watch the big game:
Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat.
This prayer (together with a nudge from the Holy Spirit!) caught the attention of the youth. They asked, “What can we do to make a difference?” After some discussion, they decided to hold a canned goods drive to benefit community food pantries in Columbia. They invited other area churches to participate.
Twenty-two churches in Columbia participated in that first food drive, collecting $5,700 in canned goods and cash for local hunger programs. The youth were pleased. Their efforts were a success, and the Souper Bowl of Caring was born.
They had no idea what they had started!
In the ensuing years, more and more youth groups began to follow the example set by the teens from Spring Valley Presbyterian. They collected canned goods and cash on Super Bowl Sunday. Then each youth group talked about hunger in their community, and made plans for using the money and supplies to support local hunger relief programs.
While it began with Presbyterians, youth groups from every denomination soon joined this act of service. Along the way, their charitable efforts caught the attention of the NFL. Eventually it was embraced by both President George H.W. Bush and President Jimmy Carter — two leaders who became Souper Bowl Ambassadors.
It is remarkable what one heartfelt prayer and the courage of young people can accomplish.
This Sunday, we will begin our Lenten sermon series, @Table w/Jesus. We will look with new eyes at those whom Jesus chooses to sit alongside at supper. We will gather around the table where he alone is the host. And yes, after worship, FAPC youth will collect canned goods and donations for local food pantries.
It will be a feast!
See you in worship,