As I write, I’m about to enter my third month in my new incarnation as a Tsedaqah Community Member. In my role in the Micah Liverpool food bank charity, I have the pleasure of serving as the contact point between volunteers and charity staff; writing thank you notes on behalf of the charity, as well as answering general inquiries from the public, in addition to serving as supervisor to the Food Bank pantry sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Integral to the way that Micah operates as a charity is humility. By now, I’ve probably quoted Micah 6:8 to death, but I will again, because it’s really important: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” When we walk with God and try to follow Jesus, what we do in his name has to be informed, among other things, by humility.
Giving is important. But how and why we give might be even more important. We can give out of our abundance and generosity. But Jesus shows us that it is more blessed to give out of our poverty. What this doesn’t mean is to give, and by giving, develop a habitual feeling or superiority. Jesus doesn’t justify the righteousness of people who praise themselves because of their good works.
You will often hear the officiant of Morning or Evening Prayer at Liverpool Cathedral to pray about the offering of oneself and all that one does during the day to God. When I’ve prayed this as the officiant, I always add something along the lines of, “Help us to remember that all we do, we do to your glory, and to yours alone.”
The food that is donated to us isn’t ours. It’s God’s. The work we do isn’t ours, it’s really God’s. God cares for each and every one of us, and intends the flourishing of all humanity. Our Food Bank pantry sessions are not a mark of how wonderful we are, but the work of God putting food in the hands of the hungry, where it should have been in the first place. Feeding the hungry is a matter of God rectifying injustice, rather than us dispensing our own justice.
And it’s absolutely essential. One of Jesus’s commands that have come down to us in Holy Scripture that means more or less the same thing now as it did 2,000 years ago is to feed the hungry. We feed the hungry–humbly–because doing so is a hallmark of our Christian calling. It is a hallmark of how God works in the world.
And it brings God’s kingdom closer.
When I work in the vegetable packing area during Food Bank sessions, I often am overtaken as I perform the repetitive task of placing potatoes, onions, carrots, peppers, and fruit in bags over and over again for individual consumption. I can sometimes feel the sense of daring holiness, a sense that the Kingdom of God has inched closer as each bag is filled and brought out to the tables to be offered.
While this work is incredibly rewarding, it can be incredibly depressing. After a busy pantry session, the happy exhaustion can also be mixed with sadness. In 2020 in the modern West, we still have a need for Food Banks. There are still poor and hungry people on our streets. Justice is still denied. The work of the foodbank, for me, was best described by a regular donor, who said that: “Unfortunately, it’s a pleasure.”
Jesus, for all he promised, never said that following him would be easy. In fact, he said the opposite. But what’s really important to remember is that we aren’t following Jesus alone. We follow Jesus together. As Liverpool Cathedral, as Liverpool Diocese, as the Church of England, as the Anglican Communion, as the entirety of the Jesus Movement. We work together and rely on each other when the cards are up and down, and especially when they are down.
Jesus knew what it was to suffer. The community that follows him will know that too and work together beyond it.
Thanks for reading this update on my missionary blog! I’m a missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in Liverpool, UK. Make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the home page to get an email when I next post an update. God bless, and thank you!
Eager to read more? Check out the “Meet the YASCers” page of the website of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of the Episcopal Church to find the blogs of my missionary colleagues: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/YASC/meet-yascers.