Today we have a couple of things going on in the church year.
Today is stewardship Sunday – and today is the last day of Pentecost – known as Christ the King Day.
Christ the King Day is the feast instituted by Pope Pius 12th in 1925 and has been celebrated on the last Sunday before Advent since 1970.
It celebrates Christ's messianic kingship and sovereign rule over all creation.
Commitment Sunday, held each year represents our financial gifts to support the ministry of the church for the upcoming year.
The two, actually have some things in common that we can draw from and think on.
The Reading today seems to fit the Deacon deal.
As you probably all have come to know, a Deacon’s jobs is mainly to serve – and to let the church know how to best serve those in need.
Just for the record, I think Fr. Harvey gets a little carried away with the Deacon serving deal. He seems to get a little carried away with servant piece.
If we look at our gospel reading from Mathew that Fr. Harvey just read there are some things we really do well here at St. David’s and maybe some opportunities to serve more or differently.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
I think of how we serve the Parish Cupboard, how we have supported the Kahn family, how we visit our shut in’s and how we minister to the women in the Chicopee correctional center.
These ministries are key to our Christian growth. They not only assist the people we are ministering to, but they help us to become more humble, more giving, more loving. They take us out of our comfort zones into places where people maybe different than we are. These ministries also help us to see just how blessed we are!
So, not only do these ministries serve others, they serve us as well.
And – oh – we are also following the words of Jesus.
So, in our own small way as a parish we are working to follow Jesus’ instructions.
I’d like to zoom in on Hunger a little bit, to make us dig deeper, knowing that some of our commitment monies are going to support these outreach activities.
Jesus said, “When I was hungry you gave me something to eat”.
There are many ways to be hungry.
And they ALL hurt.
The organization called Bread for the World estimates that 12 million children and 19 million adults go hungry each day and cannot afford the food they need to maintain physical health.
For thousands of years, bread has been a symbol of necessary food and the sustenance of life. It is easy to understand why. It is nutritious, provides carbohydrates, starch and protein to the body. It is easy to make and, in some form or other, is a part of every culture. Bread is essential.
Our problem in our over developed nation seems to be that many of us get too much to eat.
How ironic, that in a nation with TV channels devoted entirely to food, obesity for children and adults is a growing national problem.
Many of us are frequently on some diet trying to lose weight.
And yet we have millions going hungry each day?
It doesn’t make sense to me.
People are dropping dead in the Sudan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Israel, Palestine and here in the US for lack of food.
For so many people in the world, most of the time, the problem is that they have too little to eat.
They survive on only one meal a day, often times less than that.
And we are on diets!
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
For these people the only thing that can remedy their hunger is bread . . . physical bread.
But, not only do some people hurt with physical hunger, some also suffer from spiritual hunger.
They have never had – or have long since forgotten – any spiritual teaching or experiences in their lives.
In our ministries, we actually see more of this than we do physical hunger.
Some of those at the Women’s prison and at the church without walls may have been raised in churches that preach either guilt or sin, and so left any semblance of church long ago to avoid the condemnation of those ‘holier than thou’.
I think about someone I know, who is gay and clearly searching for “something” more to life. When he shared his story with me, I asked if he’d been to church, talked to a Christian leader about his yearning. He said “all the church did was made me feel guilty”.
These people are sad and depressed, angry and bitter, or conflicted and confused – or all of the above.
They have not known love – if ever – for a long time. And they have forgotten how to love.
I think of some of the women at the correctional prison, who have expressed how they were poorly treated as kids and on into adulthood, how relationships left them empty and now in prison.
They need a hug, a smile, someone to treat them with kindness and respect; and even then it takes a long time to heal.
But you don’t have to be homeless or in a war torn country to be spiritually hungry. Some of the wealthiest people in the world are looking for the spiritual food that feeds our souls. And all of us, at one time or another, suffer from spiritual hunger.
What many of us really hunger and thirst for is something much deeper than ordinary food and drink.
We sometimes stuff ourselves, trying to fill the gaping hole inside of us with food, clothes, gadgets and frantic activities, as if we could eat or buy something that would satisfy us.
But we could binge at every meal and buy everything at the Holyoke mall and still be hungry for something more. The hunger which we long for is much more difficult to satisfy than the hunger for bread.
The Apostle John tells us that the people seeking Jesus were looking for one thing, but found another.
Jesus was — and is — more inwardly fulfilling than earthly food, however many people then and many today cannot understand that.
We are greedy; when we binge, we want more and more. Ordinary food and material goods becomes normal every day; we want something more.
Jesus talks about a food that will last, a sustenance that nourishes and strengthens us for eternal life, and not just for this life.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
Jesus’ greatest gift to us then, is not the ‘daily bread’ that most of us are given so generously. It is not the security and freedom of our lives in this blessed nation, full of sparkling trinkets and adventures.
As wonderful as all this is, it is Him, His teachings, His example and His undying love.
The food and the clothing, the cars, computers, our jewelry and real estate and all the other physical gifts we earn or receive are temporary. They spoil and ‘perish away’ with all the other things of this world. Jesus reminds us not to throw away our lives - physical or spiritual - chasing after “food that spoils!”
We, are the body of Christ and as individuals, call upon one another to care for others,; to share our earthly goods; to support our church, the food banks, the Open Pantries, the refugees, those in prison, and to work for social justice in our cities, state and world.
It is not light or easy work, but the church and her people are often the last refuge for those who are sad, angry, alone, sick, and worried about whether they will be able to survive one more month.
We are a refuge for the elderly and the sick, those who may be alone, for children who have lost their parents, for the disabled who need a helping hand and acceptance, for the abused, addicted, the lost, and the strayed.
Each of us must undertake this work, not only out of the goodness of our hearts, but as builders of the Kingdom of God here on earth. And at the same time, we must care and feed each other with love, hope, joy, compassion, and community.
Remember the words of Jesus at the end of this gospel:
“Truly, I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me”.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan