Week after week, month after month, year after year, people come here looking for food. The people who come to our food pantry often come carrying paperwork and forms, prepared to justify why they are coming here seeking assistance. Some place require that justification, limiting who and what and when. Neither Erin nor I ever look at that paper work. I never make them sit down and go through their prepared litany to justify their need. I find that process to be humiliating and dehumanizing for the person. Besides their stories rarely change what we offer, or how we share, showing them the pantry and the refrigerator, and giving them bags to help themselves to food. Take what you need, and leave some for others. A friendly conversation always surrounds the time people are here, chatting about this, that, or the other thing.
This week when I introduced myself as the parish priest, one family was at first surprised, then hugged me, then asked, “Can we come to church here?” I of course said yes and told them when our services are. Will we see them in church? Perhaps one day we will.
The Requiem or Renaissance process that Jim Gettel has developed in this diocese asks congregations one primary question: “Who is our neighbor?” Two additional questions follow that one: “How are we reaching our neighbor?” And, “Who is reaching our neighbor?”
Who is our neighbor, how are we reaching our neighbor, and who is doing the reaching?
Our mission to feed people in mind, body, and spirit, focuses our examination of and response to these questions. Even if we were to limit our examination to the food pantry alone, we could consider how our mission to feed people in mind, body, and spirit reflects who we are, who our neighbor is, how we are reaching them, and who is doing the reaching. From there we could wonder what more we are being called to do. Like what about a weekly meal that we prepare, inviting food pantry people and AA folk, and others to share a meal with us? Maybe we would include a small simple worship service with the meal?
That would be eucharistic, communion, holy.
We could apply a similar methodology, breaking down our mission to feed people in mind, body, and spirit to Blessings in a Backpack, Martial Arts, Dance and Music, AA, the community groups that use the building, the Plaza, the labyrinth, the community garden, and the Holiday Market. In all of these ways exploring who our neighbor is, and how we are meeting our neighbor, who comes here hungry for food, companionship, or a purpose in life, nourishing people in mind, body, and spirit.
No doubt we could do more to reach our neighbors, especially those who do not yet come to us. The outdoor summer concert series is one opportunity because, among other people who don’t normally come to this church, the Dearborn Christian Singles group promotes the series and invites their members to attend. Here is an opportunity for us to get to know our neighbors without going too far outside of ourselves. There are three more concerts this year, I encourage everyone to come and to make the effort to meet and greet those who attend.
There are countless other ways this could be developed, where we could move further outside this building and grow relationships with our neighbors, including the Healthy Dearborn project and the Ford Motor Company Dearborn revitalization project. These are especially relevant to us at Christ Church, because as I said in my sermon last week, we are the living legacy of the philanthropic work that Clara Ford did the metro Detroit area, in and through this church. Her DNA resides in this church and her light shines in and through this congregation.
All of our readings this morning point us to consider the choices we have in life – choices in how we decide to follow God and how we enflesh God’s holy Spirit and enliven the world through God’s mission. We’ve heard stories of the powerful witness of Hagar, Sarah, and Rebekah. We have our own inspiring matriarch in Clara Ford and a heritage of sharing, giving, and growing community that defines who we are, how we are called to be, and what we are called to do.
Who is our neighbor? The hungry people in the world around us, yearning to be fed. Fed with real food. Fed by opportunities to be in real relationship. Fed by risk taking, seeking initiatives to make a real difference in the world. For me, it is sacramental, God’s holy communion, offered by a community centered church, feeding people in mind, body, and spirit.
a reflection on the readings for Proper 10A: Genesis 25:19-34, Psalm 119:105-112, Romans 8:1-11, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23