Yesterday was Wednesday, so I got to do something I particularly enjoy – preparing backpacks of food for the BackSnack ministry. Every Wednesday, seven or eight parishioners gather in the undercroft at St. Andrew’s to fill backpacks with nonperishable food provided by Harvesters, a local hunger-relief agency. Parishioners then deliver these backpacks to the students at Blenheim Elementary School in Kansas City. Although the school is only about three miles away from the church, it’s light years distant in terms of socioeconomic status – basically all the 200 kids there receive free or reduced-cost school lunches. So, each Friday, every student receives a backpack of food to take home for the weekend, to provide extra nutrition for the days when they don’t have the assurance of getting lunch at school.
This coming Sunday, May 3, we’ll highlight the BackSnack ministry in our monthly children’s homily. Among the readings that morning will be these verses from the First Letter of John: “We know love by this, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (3:16-17)
Sometimes Christianity baffles us with mystery and paradox; sometimes the Scriptures challenge us with circular reasoning or make claims that tax our capacity for belief. But other times, we get the clarity of Christ’s command to love, particularly in John’s gospel and letters. “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18). It’s this kind of clarity that gets me through the confusions and frustrations of parish ministry. Sometimes, discipleship really isn’t a lot more complicated than feeding hungry children who live nearby your wealthy church.