Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sharing food…

I can’t think of any more Christian act than sharing food with others. Are they hungry? Offer some dinner, and a place to rest. Are they young adults away from home during the holidays? Invite them to your family’s celebrations. Is she returning from the hospital after surgery, or he’s laid low with a winter flu? Bring over a hotdish or pot of soup. That’s what Christians do.

During high school, my sister and I decided to find a different church. My parents saw this as us taking ownership of our spiritual journey, so blessed the endeavor. Thus, we went “church shopping” (a terrible term, amen?!) for the first time in our lives. And the place that made the strongest impression- indeed, where we worshipped for several years- was Metro Community Church, a Church of Christ-affiliated congregation in east Denver. One important reason for that was the singing, an important consideration for this long-time choir boy. The congregation didn’t simply mouth the hymns’ words, willing the sermon to start sooner. Enthusiastically, these worshippers used song to praise God loudly and proudly. It was quite attractive!

But I think the main reason we chose that church had to do with food. Not only did they celebrate Communion every Sunday, important to my soul. After service, a group of students, young adults and less young adults invited my sister and me to lunch. “Hey,” they said, “You’re new here. Thanks for joining us in worship! We’re going to eat now; we’d love it if you joined us.” Being an introvert, I was a little nervous, but they truly seemed interested to include me in their spiritual community. So we said yes, and that turned into a pattern. Not every Sunday, but often we’d join other Christian friends for after-church food, always remembering to invite visitors if we’d been blessed with some that day. Other churches I’ve attended had similar practices because, well, Christians share food. It’s what we do. It’s how Jesus taught us to live together.

Every March, the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches (on whose Board I sit and now chair the Strategic Planning Committee) sponsors the largest annual food drive throughout Minnesota. It’s called the Minnesota Foodshare, and every year, partner churches, non-profits, businesses and more raise over half of the food and funds that Minnesota’s 300+ foodshelves distribute to hungry families. Last year, the effort provided 13 million pounds and dollars of food. And the best part is that every dollar donated went entirely to local foodshelves. That’s different than other food drive organizations, Second Harvest for instance, who certainly do good work, but have higher overhead costs or don’t give all donated funds directly to food shelves. The Foodshare, by contrast, either encourages people to give to their closest food distribution center- like IOCP or PRISM- or to the Foodshare directly, whose Food Fund distributes 100% of its proceeds to statewide shelves and pantries. Again, over half of our state’s charitable food assistance comes from this March campaign, which doesn’t solve the problem of hunger. But imagine the increased struggles if Foodshare didn’t exist?

For the past couple years, our local foodshelf- IOCP- has sponsored a March food drive they call Donation Creation, encouraging churches, schools and businesses to gather food and funds for hunger assistance. They’ve procured this year $100,000 in matching grants from Mosaic Inc. and the local Lions Club, $1 matched for every pound of food or dollar donated, a nice enticement indeed! Plus, they encourage friendly competition- every partner can build a sculpture with their donations. Two years ago, ours was chosen as the best among participating churches!

I’m hoping this March, we’ll win again. And I hope you’re with me! Our plan’s to bring foodshelf donations to church from now until mid-March, then we’ll construct whatever lovely sculpture strikes our creative fancy. Plus, we’ll do so in our sanctuary, beautifying worship with food for hungry people. If you’d prefer to give money, that’s welcome too, since one dollar donated can purchase an additional 9 pounds of food. Sounds like fun, right?! Sounds, as well, like exactly what Christians do. Feed the hungry. Celebrate compassion. Share food.

Grace and Peace,

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