Newsletter Article

 

A NEW COMMANDMENT

      I don't remember a time when I was not interested in fair treatment. I fell into an M.A. in Theological Ethics readily.  You may not realize it but quite a lot of Scripture is devoted to fair treatment. I started ministry in 1978  providing food to the Southwest Food Bank.  At about the same time I was trained to be a Stephen's Minister.  I have always been working on problems of Feeding and Pastoral Care.

      The first thing I discovered about feeding the hungry is that God is into it in a big way.  I raised money, shopped for food and carted to the area where it was distributed.  I was not involved with giving it away. I would pray and set out on the hunt with a mental list of foods they wanted at the food bank, scouring the grocery and discount supermarkets for bargains. I didn't mind begging for other people, so I picked up produce and bread that was half past fresh to add to the staples.  There was a shelter that was happy to take stuff that the food bank couldn't use.  I consistently found an astounding amount of food for $50.00.  It was a lot of fun to discover what God would provide.  I remember finding 50 lb. bags of rice for $10.00 once.  I thought I was dreaming and loaded up as much as I could carry, then spread the word to others.

     I didn't really get involved in the distribution end of feeding until I was living in a rectory 20 yrs. later in Weston. Feeding the hungry can be very perplexing.  I was glad that I was thoroughly convinced of God's investment in it by that time.  After working in distribution for nearly 20 more years I have come to the conclusion that giving food away is a permanent gray area.  I was raised on black and white, right/wrong, so it took a lot of convincing.

     …"44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same?…". Mt. 5:44-46

     As usual God is working from a different starting point.  As a distributor of food I was concerned with giving to those who needed it.  In Matthew Jesus starts with love for God's Children.  In order to be a good manager of my resources I have to do my best to get my gift to those who need it.  On the other hand I am gradually learning to be generous the way that God is generous.  Some resources are expended while I am learning, and that is part of a life-long learning process.  Jesus is one of us who really understood God.  The rest of us are struggling to keep up.  I learned to be okay with that, to take opportunities to learn and to let go of that need to be right/get it right. Feeding ministry is not about getting it right.  It is not about having a foolproof plan. It is about caring enough to come back to the problem and face it day by day.

      Those of you who have stayed married over the long haul know what I mean. Don't you come back to one another each day and try again to be a couple?  That is exactly what I am writing about.  Feeding the hungry is about coming back to it again and again because Jesus asked us to love one another. I repeat that there is no right way to do this. There is also a strong temptation to make up a rule like "Never give to panhandlers".  It comes from our need to break the tension caused by our desire to do the right thing.  Our marriage vows keep us working to make a marriage, even when we feel uncertain. The love command has a similar function.

      If we were blessed in our marriage we found a person who cares about what matters to us.  Our hungry neighbor may not care. It makes loving both "the evil and the good" complicated.  We are asked to love as well as we can, to feed as well as we can.  See what I mean?  It's a permanent state of gray.  Permanent gray does not mean that we stop trying to be responsible with our resources.  They are limited and we want to use them well.  Generous does not equal extravagant.  Caring consistently for both our resources and for our neighbors helps us grow into our discipleship.

       Many of you will remember the bizarre plot twists of that old TV show "The Twilight Zone".  It's running again regularly on the SyFy channel.  Ministry is that place where our commitment to follow Jesus meets the real world.  Turn over control of your set, you are entering the Twilight Zone.  Deborah +