Eric Foley: Sharing your bread in the park is not radical
… In [Matthew 25], Jesus is not identifying sharing your bread, providing drink, opening your home, and providing clothing as separate ”projects” or “ministry outreaches,” e.g., meal at the park, canned food collection, homeless shelter building, coats for kids drive.
Instead, taken together — as he intends — what emerges is a picture of ordinary Christians using their homes and their daily meals and the best clothes on their backs — not their neighborhood parks and cans of convenience store chili — to engage strangers and outcasts as family; that is, a lifestyle of spiritual and material engagement.
It is not radical to have a lifestyle of serving meals at the park. It is radical to see one’s own possessions as not one’s own possessions but rather as gifts from the good and loving God to be freely shared with others.
I wrote previously about how during my time at the Los Angeles Mission we took the big Thanksgiving and Christmas “feedings” off the street and into the single room occupancy hotels of Skid Row, going from plastic utensils, tables covered with butcher paper, and volunteers smiling as they poured cups of ice tea for the “grateful homeless” to meals where everyone prepared, served, and ate the meal together, where it became increasingly difficult to tell who was giving and who was receiving, because everyone was doing both.
“Feeding the homeless” is not radical. Sharing Your Bread in the park is not radical. Enabling homeless men and women to share their bread around your dinner table — that is radical.
That, in fact, is an interesting aspect of the story of Jesus’ multiplication of fish and loaves that is overlooked: Jesus never disdains the poor by treating them as mere recipients; they are his co-creators. The feast begins, after all, with a boy offering his fish and loaves. The poor are always providing for the rich in the Bible, not the other way around. It’s one of God’s hallmarks.
And Jesus was not criticized for caring for the poor. Most religions do that. Instead, he was criticized for how he redefined the dinner table. Banning public meals would not have set Jesus back at all; after all, once Jesus announced that he was the main course, everyone who was left over could have fit into the Upper Room (and, in fact, did).
Jesus’ complaint to the goats was not “I never got a sack lunch from you at the park” but rather “I never sat at your dinner table.” No law currently on the books prevents that injustice from being remedied.
Eric’s analysis of both the text and the ministry need are spot on. If a congregation believes passing out bologna sandwiches under a bridge is the end-vision of Matthew 25, they are mistaken. We couldn’t agree more about the intimate relationships and the “not mine but His” perspective on possessions and ministry. We believe we are not doing justice until we get hands-on, loving people in need up close and personal. We are delighted when Christians who are doing nothing begin doing something — anything — but the leader’s goal should be drawing those Christians in toward the kind of intimate personal relationships with others that provide the opportunity for lives to be transformed.
Read his post in its entirety by clicking here.