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We must feed the sheep

POSTED: August 26, 2011 7:00 a.m.

As summer ends, so does the summer lunch program in Wilson — and it was a huge success. On the last day, two of my grandchildren enjoyed a wonderful meal and received backpacks of food for a long weekend. 
But they received much more than just food. Their dad reported that they enjoyed being with all the other kids; that ALL the children present were encouraged to eat ALL their food (no dessert if you don’t eat everything) and to be well-mannered at the tables; and afterward, anyone who wanted could go across the street and play in Wilson’s newest park.
Lots of kids took advantage of THAT, including our two — and it was lots more fun with a group of kids, than it would’ve been with only themselves.
The summer lunch/backpack program was a community effort, with volunteers from across the city. But it was inaugurated thanks to the efforts of Lynn Kasper, a professional dietician who saw the need among our families, and to the United Methodists of Wilson. 
The lunch site, centrally located and across from the children’s favorite park, is provided by the United Methodist Church at a “cost only” rate. The congregation is willing to take the risk that the program might not generate enough dollars from the USDA to cover the costs of utilities and building maintenance. It has been a risk well taken, as the program has almost doubled in size!
Those in charge of scheduling have had little trouble finding volunteers this year. But they know where and how to locate those volunteers — begin with the churches.
Why? For one thing, our churches have a Biblical imperative to feed the hungry — and that doesn’t just mean “spiritual” food. After his resurrection, when Jesus appeared to the disciples in Galilee, the first thing he did was to FEED THEM breakfast when they came in from fishing on the lake (John 21: 9-19). 
Jesus not only did it, he ordered Peter to keep doing it. Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  And when Peter says, “You know I do,” Jesus responds, “Then feed my sheep.” And at the end of this scene, Jesus concludes, “Follow me.”
So how do we love and follow the Jesus who has ascended to his Father and is no longer with us in the body?  The words “Follow me!” come immediately after three commandments to feed the sheep. 
It’s a no-brainer. We follow when we feed.
So there it is. John says it’s a three-step process:
1) love Jesus means
2) feed the sheep so that
3) you follow him because you
    1) love Jesus and want to
    2) feed those sheep so
    3) they could follow him,
Who better to fulfill this mandate than the Church, where “love, feed, follow” is the main reason for our existence, for our community, for our structure? 
Need to get ahold of a volunteer? The Church has lists and people at the ready. 
Need to get some help with donations of food for a funeral lunch, or dollars for the local food bank, or deliveries of food baskets? The Church has the structure and the contacts already set up to provide the response. 
Need a safe place to set up a lunch program? The church has the facilities. 
Need a friendly atmosphere with loving discipline? It’s already built in at the church.
THIS is what the Church is for — and THIS is where the love of Christ Jesus (expressed through worship and Sabbath and community fellowship) must always lead us. 
Jesus asks us:  “Do you love me?” 
If the answer is “Yes!” then we MUST feed the sheep.

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