Updated: Aug 29, 2019
The following is a guest blog post as part of our series on Faith & Hunger by Bob Richardson, Assitant Pastor at Mount Tabor United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Second Harvest’s Faith & Hunger series is looking at how we as a community should address hunger from a variety of faith perspectives.
Hello. My name is Bob Richardson, and while I feel at first compelled to introduce myself as the husband of Susan, SHFB’s Major Gifts Officer, I am also the Assistant Pastor of Mount Tabor United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It is from that vocational perspective that I share some feelings about the faith community’s responsibility in confronting hunger and poverty that besets far too many of its neighbors.
And we are neighbors! Arguably the most well-known parables or stories told by Jesus, whom Holy Scripture calls “The author and finisher of our faith”, is the tale of the Good Samaritan, where a Jewish traveler, whom some would view as an outcast, is beaten and left for dead along a roadside between Jerusalem and Jericho. Disregarded by first a priest and then a Levite, the victim is paid attention by one who would have otherwise been considered adversarial by the Jew.
The Samaritan binds up the wounds of the Jew, and tends to him, carrying him to an inn where he provides for him by enlisting the aid of the innkeeper, whom he pays and further assures that whatever is needed to secure the well-being of the traveler will be accounted for. He promises to take care of his tab in other words, and it’s not a leap of faith to assume that feeding him is on the agenda. Jesus concludes the story by declaring that in his mercy the Samaritan established his role as neighbor.
Another of scripture’s more popular asides tells the story of the feeding of 5000 plus who had come to hear Jesus preach. At the end of his sermon his disciples are concerned that the crowd is lingering and urge the Lord to send them away so they can secure lodging and food at the end of a long day. Instead, Jesus says to the disciples, “You feed them”. He’s told that provisions are scarce, just five loaves of bread and two fish. But what man sees as insufficient is more than enough in the Master’s hands.
The Bible is rich with many more teachings related to hunger. When God’s people are fed they find their way home, from Nehemiah 9:15. When God’s people are fed their weariness is eased, from Isaiah 49:10. When God’s people are fed God’s righteousness is instilled in them, from Matthew 5:6. When God’s people are fed, every malady, spiritual or physical, is overcome, from Luke 6:21. Finally, of the many promises of eternity is this: there shall be no more hunger, from Revelation 7:16.
Mount Tabor has a keen awareness of the scourge of hunger in her neighborhood, and truly serves as the hands and feet of Christ in service, both financial and “boots on the ground”, to agencies like Crisis Control Ministries, Samaritan Ministries, The Bethesda Center for the Homeless, and last but certainly not least, the Second Harvest Food Bank. It’s more than honor; it’s the sacred obligation to which God calls his people as one essential way to stand in the gap for their neighbor.
The church has a community meal every Wednesday night called Tabor Table. Several weeks ago a young man named Taj had come by, unshaven, unkempt, uncertain. We talked for a while, and then our church hostess Sheri happened by. Sheri cooks; cooking is Sheri’s ministry. She said hello to Taj, smiled at Taj, and then told Taj, “Come and get something to eat”. It was just grilled cheese and tomato soup that night, but the look in his eyes let me know that for Taj it was the Lord’s Supper.
There was no preaching that night for Taj. There was no proselytizing for Taj, no admonition or judgement about the need to get his life right. There was no call to read his Bible or say his prayers.
I may be the pastor at Mount Tabor, but that night Sheri did the ministering to Taj. She saw to it that he was fed, and in doing so she let him know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was not alone, and that he was loved by God and loved by God’s people.
I’m not stopping the presses when I declare that we are a world disengaged from one another, disenfranchised from one another, disassociated from one another. Division is too often the norm instead of the aberration. There’s too much conflict and not nearly enough community. Jesus Christ, whom I claim as King, does not want it that way, and he calls on us to change it. Maybe, just maybe, that begins with a meal for my neighbor, whoever they may be.