Monday, April 23, 2012

Meeting Jesus in Our Hunger

This past week I got a call from the daughter of Edna Shugars, one of our homebound members. Her daughter was in town for her mother’s 90th birthday and called to tell me Edna said she was really hungry for communion- would you come?  “Of course I’d be delighted to bring communion,” I said and inquired if I could also bring a birthday treat. I learned her favorite cake was Red Velvet, so I splurged and made a trip over to Sublime Cupcakes and got a bunch of cupcakes in different flavors but most definitely one Red Velvet. Communion and cupcakes. We celebrated, took pictures of the birthday girl, and shared good conversation. I learned her son in law often serves as a communion assistant in their Lutheran church in Missouri. He became visibly moved talking about the profound experience of sharing communion with people. Looking into their eyes and seeing that there’s something different, that moment we grasp that Jesus really is in our midst in our eyes and theirs. Some of you’ve shared how this moment hits you too.

When I told Edna I’d brought communion she was filled with joy and hope. After we shared in the bread and wine and prayed, I watched as she sat there, with her eyes closed, and a slight smile. With tears in the corners of her eyes, she sat perfectly still for awhile, just holding onto the communion glass. This lasted so long her daughter asked her if she was OK. But she smiled and opened her eyes oh so slowly and said she was just so happy. And I really believe she was meeting with Jesus. I saw what it meant to be truly hungry for Jesus, and in doing what seemed like I was responding, could reminded just how much we all are hungry for Jesus. At the end of our time, I looked over, and ironically there sat the Red Velvet cupcake-in our communing and communion, it was yet to be enjoyed. In the meantime, Jesus had opened our minds so we could understand the deeper meaning of “This is for you-remember me.” Met in our hunger and helplessness, and given life-fed in the name of Christ. There are lots of other times and places Jesus will show up in what seems like the need of others but will reveal our need and God in our midst.

Unlike my visit with Edna it will often be in the unscheduled, unanticipated people with a need who suddenly appear. After the cross, those who followed Jesus have been hoping to meet him. He’s appeared to some on the road who go to tell the others, but then while they are in mid-sentence, a stranger shows up in the midst of them and just stands there. They aren’t sure who he is or what he wants. They feel scared and helpless. He’s trying to get them to understand and then he blurts out, “do you have any food?” An unanticipated event, and an unexpected request. When they respond Jesus opens their minds, and opens up the meaning of God’s words. But I wonder, couldn’t it all have turned out differently in this event that seemingly begins as an intrusion into their lives? They could’ve told Jesus, that if he was hungry he should find his own food, because it’s not in their budget to feed total strangers who look like they could provide for themselves?

I wonder because as so many in our community and our country struggle to eat and to have peace, this week it was announced that legislators are proposing the cutting of billions of dollars that provide food assistance to families. Many believe that this program is an intrusive drain on our resources. Let others find their own way. Some who use the program who are guilty of a variety of sins. Let them feed their own. Yet when asked how these people, many of whom are children, will eat, the answer is this: Let the charities and churches step up and do something. As the pastor of this congregation that is already stepping up, I wonder how much more can we do, especially when it looks like some are not stepping at all? And according to Bread for the World, the cost of this to churches would be an added $50,000 per congregation, even those already stepping up.  How can we even begin to reach THAT many hungry and the helpless people looking for food and hope and comfort? Here in the RLP, churches, like ours, already have afterschool programs connected with the Food Bank Kids Café project. Others buy food for local moms and grandmas in the neighborhood to feed their afterschool kids. Many stock pantry shelves to feed the hungry.

We hunger for a Christ we long to see, but while we may want to think he will show up like Edna, Christ is also coming in all the hungry of the world. Some days and and people challenge us, when they suddenly show up and have a demand. It’s not always as heartwarming as a visit with a lady like Edna. In many ways, the face of those who hunger is not always the one you expect. In my own childhood, I remember helping my Mom stock the dented cans on the shelves of the low cost pantry. But I also remember that same pantry provided us food. And I remember being tempted to put aside some cans of things I wanted. That pantry helped us have life. Perhaps it would surprise you to see that a food pantry kid is preaching in this pulpit today. You never know how Jesus will show up. One of our own volunteers shared this story- A child came and got a bag of groceries, and suddenly looked up with pure joy and exclaimed– “We will eat tonite!”  Jesus showed up and both the volunteer and the child were fed in the name of Christ.

Christ is coming in all of the hungry reminding us to share what it means that God’s words are fulfilled in him. Christ is coming to open our minds, and to empower us to share this message with all nations, no matter how hard it is to understand.  To tell them “Come hungry, come helpless, come hopeful, eat and live.” Come to all of the places God sets a table because God hungers for all are able to be fed, and be welcomed.”  This is the work for us who claim we carry on his name. It is a draining monumental task that asks us to challenge our leaders and ourselves, and that leaves lots of questions. But through the Spirit like those first disciples miraculous things happen that our own power could not achieve. As witnesses to the power of God, we’re given power to respond to what Jesus asks of us, even in the unexpected, the unbudgeted, and the unknown.  Wherever there are those who hunger, who long for comfort and hope for forgiveness and peace, Jesus is still showing up, speaking to them and to us-“this is given for you- remember me.”

Today we will sing- Eat this bread, drink this cup. Come to me and never be hungry, trust in me and you will not thirst.
How will God's words come to life in and through us? There are a lot of things I don’t know about how each of us will respond, but there is one thing I am sure of, we are called to an active response.

Wherever this may be for you may you be guided by the prayer of the food pantry at Hope Lutheran Church, each week before they open the doors to all those people who show up asking, do you have anything to eat? 
 “Lord Jesus, we know you will be coming through the door today. Help us to treat you well.”

1 comment:

Lynda said...

Excellent message for everyone - both spiritual and practical.