Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dogs, Backpacks, and Mission

It’s always good to understand your own job. On Saturday and Sunday, God gave me a couple of glimpses of divine purpose that helped me see what I do in a little clearer light.

Saturday morning, about 10 St. Andrew’s people came out to staff our booth at the annual Strutt With Your Mutt event in Brookside (our neighborhood). Along with the pet stores, dog trainers, and providers of alternative canine healing, there we were – a church. We weren’t “doing church” (at least not by traditional definitions), but we were offering to bless dogs as their owners came by. Fr. Fred, Mtr. Anne, and I conveyed God’s blessing to 100 or so canines that morning, and I think it’s safe to say that a similar number of owners felt blessed by the experience, too. To many passers-by, we church folk probably looked out of place – especially the three of us wearing clericals and stoles. But the symbolism was perfect: God cares deeply about every part of the good creation, human and nonhuman. I hope that was the message people took away from the crazy clerics getting their stoles dirty in the puddles on the parking lot.

Then, on Sunday morning, during our Adult Forum, we had a presentation about the BackSnack program featuring three people from our partner school, Benjamin Banneker Elementary in east Kansas City. St. Andrew’s is one of many churches and organizations here that fill backpacks with food for kids to take home from school on Friday afternoons so they have something nutritious to eat until Monday’s breakfast and lunch back at school. Then, after the 10:15 service, parishioners stuffed backpacks to be delivered this week. The message, I hope, was a different shade of what we also communicated on Saturday: God’s deep care for us and for all creation. As God’s people, we’re called to incarnate that care and bring it to the places that need to feel it most – in this case, an economically disadvantaged school in east KC. Every backpack a Banneker kid receives is divine love enfleshed.

And that’s what mission is all about. We’re called to take God’s love into the world. It’s not that God’s love isn’t already there – of course it is. It’s just that God needs us to put some flesh and bones on it.