Although I was involved in many different ministries over my years as a parishioner at my former Catholic parish, the ministry that meant the most to me was Loaves and Fishes.
In fact, even after I joined Easter Lutheran over a year ago, I volunteered to stay involved with Loaves and Fishes through my former parish.
Volunteers from that parish are responsible for cooking and serving a meal to as many as 250 people once each month at St. Stephen’s Church in Minneapolis. Generous parishioners also make donations to cover the entire cost of the meal.
That group of volunteers and donors comes together to provide a meal to the homeless, the unemployed, the working poor, the mentally ill and to any other person who is hungry… and who is our brother and sister.
For the past 29 years, I have made the trip to south Minneapolis each month to be part of the Loaves and Fishes serving team. I am part of a group of about 25 people who serve the meal that has been lovingly prepared earlier in the day by parish volunteer cooks.
Now, I will be the first to admit to you that I am not a scripture scholar… not even a little bit! But, when a scripture passage hits home to me, as it most certainly does in this quotation from Matthew’s 25th chapter, I need to take action.
In that quotation, Jesus says at the last judgment, “For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was thirsty and you gave me drink”
And, if we ask Jesus when we fed him and gave him drink, he will say, “I assure you, when you did it for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it for me!”
For whatever doubts I have had with religion over the years and for whatever doubts I have in what I personally believe, I do know one thing for sure… Jesus Christ gave me an example of how I must live my life. How he led his own life on earth is a standard that I want and need to keep.
For all of these years, I have never, ever, tired of this ministry of Loaves and Fishes. It is a simple way to respond to the command of Jesus that we are truly our brother’s and sister’s keepers. It allows each of us as cooks and servers and donors to make a difference in somebody’s life…to live the gospel.
We, in effect, bring Jesus to the people eating our simple meal of salad, fruit, sloppy joes and beans. But, in another sense, the people we serve at Loaves and Fishes bring Jesus to us, as well.
For you see, all types of people come through that serving line to receive our free meal. And, sometimes, it is pretty easy to tell that some of these folks are really down on their luck. But, that’s when Jesus makes his most meaningful appearance in my life because, through the life-worn faces of people coming through our serving line, I truly see the face of Jesus, on earth.
By serving these people, the command of Jesus… to feed my brothers and sisters… becomes so incredibly real to me, more than hearing the same words at church or reading those same words from my Bible. The people served at Loaves and Fishes create a spiritual experience for me and they strengthen my faith.
So, what has this ministry opportunity of having the privilege of feeding people meant to me? I truly believe that it is not enough to “know my faith”. It is imperative that I “act my faith”.
Loaves and Fishes gives me the chance to bring Jesus to others as well as have Jesus brought to me. It’s “Love 101”.
Ron Jackelen continues to serve at Loaves and Fishes at St. Stephens in Minneapolis and also volunteers through Loaves and Fishes at the Easter Lutheran Community Meal.