Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Leftover Feast

     "What was the moment in which I felt closest to Christ?" -- I went to the Ultreya this weekend partly because our Senior Warden politely nagged me and partly because I wanted to support those members of our parish who had been transformed by the encounters with God in Cursillo. During the event, we divided up into small groups and considered questions of piety, study, and action. One of the questions we considered under piety was the one mentioned above. What stunned me, perhaps the most, was that I had to choose one. As I began to reflect upon the week, I realized that Christ had been very close a number of times last week.
     As I shared with the congregation yesterday, a number of health issues affecting members of our parish had been resolved in a good fashion. For a couple of our parishioners, I am certain that the restoration must seem like a true miracle. As I continued to reflect upon Christ's presence in our lives, I was also reminded of the discretionary check. As I shared with the congregation yesterday, God's fingerprints were all over that check, our messages, e-mails, and discussions. How will it end? God only knows, but perhaps we get a donation that covers a new physical plant? Then there was the Community Meal.
     I had saved the leftovers from our Christian Seder of Maundy Thursday with the express intention of serving it at Community Meal this month. I arrived to find everything set up this past Wednesday. I said grace and proceeded to begin filling cups with juice as people went to get their meals. As God would have it, a man who worked at a sheep farm for a number of years was present. He chose not to have any lamb. He explained to those around him that he ate too much of it when he worked the ranch. A few scoffed that it could ever be satisfying. This man explained that given the cost, he sure hoped we had prepared it well. As the man continued to instruct his listeners, he explained that the lamb had cost "this church" at least $100. And so began the ripples of conversation.
     By the time I made it to the other side of the room, one of the men got up the courage to ask me. "Is it true?" "Is what true?" "Is it true that you guys wasted over a $100 on meat for us? I mean, I am sure a parishioner gave you the meat or got it for you cheap, right?" "Nope, I paid full price for it." "Where did you get it?" "The Fareway on 53rd." "I don't mean to sound ungrateful, father, but you just wasted a lot of money on us." "How so?" "Well, that is money better spent helping people who deserve to be helped." Immediately, the Gospel lesson from John burst in on me. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
     I asked the gentleman if he understood the season we were in. He asked what I meant. I told him that in our church we are currently celebrating the season of Easter. I asked him if he "realized that the Lord of the universe had come down from heaven, hung on the cross so that the unworth he felt could be made right before God, stayed on that cross when we tempted Him to come down, and died for us all because He loved each of us, including you." "Yeah, but $100 . . ." Once again, I asked, "do you realize that the Creator of all that is seen and unseen loved you so much that He died that you might be restored to abundant life with God? I only spent $100 and a few hours preparing some meat and gravy." "Well, when you put it like that, your effort seems trivial." "Because it was. His effort for all of us was the most amazing evidence of love ever displayed. For a short time on earth, Love made history and reminded us of His call upon each of our lives. In a few hours, you will be hungry again, because my meal was just food. But Jesus calls you to an eternal feast."
     That conversation turned into about a half dozen more. I will not bore people with details a second time, but suffice it to say a number of people heard it. So often, as we labor in His fields, we never see the fruits of our labors. Yet, for a brief moment, those of us who served the homeless, the poor and the hobos heard the fruits. Easily a dozen people thanked us for the feast that we provided. Who knew? God can take leftovers, and some other faithful cooking, and turn it into a blessed feast and a teaching moment where His love can be shared. Of course, if we believe He was truly raised from the dead, why would we ever expect anything less?

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