Tuesday, July 31, 2012

There will be food

This summer I have served at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. I have worked with the worship ministries, the education and discipleship ministries, and with a new ministry of the church called reVision. ReVision is a ministry of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church with adolescents in Southwest Houston who are on probation for gang-related activity.

When I arrived in Houston with my fellow Duke Field Education Students, we told that at every reVision event there will be food. If someone is hungry, our supervisor explained, there is no use taking them to do anything. We eat because the ministry strives to meet each person’s most basic needs and in hopes that this will build trust and relationships between youth, staff, and volunteers. As time passed, I realized that I had yet to attend a single church event that didn’t have food. It wasn’t just reVision, but the entire church that lived by the motto, “There will be food.”

There is something deeply scriptural about a ministry of food. God met the most basic needs of the Israelite people in the desert, feeding them manna and quail. Much of Christ’s ministry happened around mealtime tables at the homes of Pharisees and tax collectors. We told of his miraculous multiplication of food to meet the needs of hungry crowds. Christ gave us his body and blood as food to our souls in the form of bread and wine. Threaded throughout scripture is this message that where God is, “there will be food.”

Food is a uniting force, exceeded in necessity only by water and breath. Humanity needs to eat. My time in Houston has taught me in new and refreshing ways that humanity needs to eat together. Eating together feeds the soul and nourishes the body. Eating together at a table puts us on equal grounds with complete strangers with whom we have seemingly little in common. Eating together at the Lord’s Table, we feed on the Bread of Life, receive eternal nourishment and become the body of Christ.

This summer, news of Midwestern drought, predictions of grain shortages and higher food prices have littered the airwaves. Residents of urban city centers suffer from a lack of access to nourishing, healthy and fresh food. The people of Chad, Gambia, Burkina Faso and Mali face the possibilities of food shortages due to poor harvests and unstable political conditions. Over and over, we hear the world telling us, “There will not be food.”

In fear that there will not be food, that there will not be enough, we stockpile, we hoard, we obsessively coupon, we monitor our retirement accounts and we forget to care for others. We forget the church has been feeding on the body of Christ of nearly 2,000 years and we’ve yet to run of out. The church’s response to hunger must be “There will be food. God, through us, will provide.”

Is Christ’s body a practical and strategic plan to solve world hunger? Certainly not. But the reality of the limitless supply of Christ’s body, Christ’s grace, Christ’s provision demands a reorientation towards questions of hunger. Instead of responding in fear, hostility, and hoarding to news reports, the church, the body of Christ, must open its storehouses and feed God’s people, whether hungry adolescents in Southwest Houston or hungry refugees in Burkina Faso. The church calls to each and every one, “Come, there will be food.”

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