40 Day Journey with Our Neighbors in Solidarity
Week 1: Church on the Street
Day 1: I was Hungry and you gave me food.
Introduction: Today, we begin our Lenten journey together with your Neighbors in Solidarity of the South Dakota Synod. The Gospel, which Church on the Street was founded on, is Matthew 25:35-36,40. For the next week, you will hear from pastors, staff, lay leaders, and a board member as we venture “Into” this text in a visceral way. Each verse will be addressed by someone who deeply relates to it. We are so very thankful to be on this journey with you. May you find a reminder of God’s love for you AND neighbor during Lent this year.
Pastor Rebel Hurd
Day 1: Matthew 25:35-36,40 (Revised Standard Version)
34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you cared for me, I was in prison, and you came to me… 40 Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.
In the early days of Church on the Street (COTS), I carried this scripture in my pocket as I walked the streets. It was hand-written on one of my daughter’s pink, lined, 3 X 5 index cards. The words blurred from sweat seeping through my jeans on 100 degrees SD days, but you could still read the underlined words: “hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, and sick.” I had not yet known verse thirty-six would be a part of the ministry of COTS. I knew I was walking the streets to build relationships with the people, whose current life situations, descriptors if you will, were indeed these underlined words on the little card in my pocket. These relationships, and a full-bodied call to live out this Gospel, would eventually develop into Church on the Street.
This week’s focus is: “For I was hungry, and you gave me food.” It seems simple, right? If you see a hungry person, feed them. I hate to be a dream crusher, but it really isn’t that simple.
One of my first days on the street, wearing my hot pink Peace Lutheran Church t-shirt (we didn’t have COTS ones yet) and a backpack full of food, I saw a guy sitting on a bench on Phillips Avenue. He had a pretty big belly, so I didn’t really think of him as hungry (I didn’t yet know what I didn’t know), but he had a smile on his face and welcomed me to sit with him on the bench. I jumped at the chance, smiling (before masks) from ear to ear. The heavy backpack had caused my back to be drenched with sweat, and I needed to give away some of this food to lighten the weight. Oh, and to feed the hungry. We talked for hours, or at least this is how I remember it, and I never offered him a single granola bar. I was so captivated by the conversation. As he left, I said, Oh, I have some granola bars if you would like some. He asked if there was chocolate in them, I said yes. He turned back and told me our conversation had filled him up.
I learned several things on that hot, sweaty day. 1. Granola bars with chocolate chips melt into a gooey mess and don’t come out of the package well. 2. Relationships are the window to genuinely seeing a person’s hunger. 3. Feeding hungry people is not simple, and stepping into this Gospel requires stepping boldly into the lives of those living in poverty. 4. What you first see is not always an exact representation of reality.
Matthew reminds us in this Gospel to care for our neighbors, to act with justice, to mark our discipleship with love, AND, of course, to feed the hungry. But we first must step genuinely INTO the Gospel. Me pulling food out of my bag may have been helpful. Still, these many years later, I have been made keenly aware that the front row of poverty needs more than granola bars; it needs genuine conversation, grace, compassion, and a willingness to walk in the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. The beauty, my friends, is that we do it securely in the knowledge and promise of God’s grace. Thanks be to God.
What does it mean for you to live out your call to feed the hungry? Maybe, for you, it starts with reflecting on a time you felt hungry… truly hungry. If no memories come to mind, you have been blessed. For me, I can conjure up those memories fairly easily. And now, I can tell you hundreds of stories of others being hungry. What do you remember? How did it feel to have your stomachache with real hunger? Do you have a hungry neighbor? A young person who comes home from school hungry or an older person who struggles?
As followers of Jesus, we do not have to have lived in poverty to understand what it means to respond to the greatest needs of the people of God. To be disciples, to be a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let us overflow with mercy, love, and compassion. Let us, together, change the systems that perpetuate poverty.
We invite you to participate deeper. We challenge you to:
- Share your surplus.
- Offer a simple supper to a family in need in your congregation.
- Volunteer for Feeding South Dakota/America.
- Purchase groceries for a Church on the Street family in need.
- Pray, each day, for those who go hungry.
- Give thanks for the abundance of your daily bread.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We pray for all nations and all people living in poverty, in hunger, in homelessness. We pray for those with great financial burdens, those afflicted with addictions that affect sound financial choices, and those coping with catastrophe. We pray for shared equality among all people. We, too, pray for those who benefit from the abundance of blessings and prosperity. In your name, we pray for the end of hunger. Amen.