The Rev. David Meyers
Holy Spirit Episcopal Church
1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI 49306
Two weeks ago, churches who follow the Common Lectionary read John 21. The Gospel for the third week of Easter told of Jesus waiting with breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As the fishing apostles approached in the early morning, Jesus fed them breakfast and then asked Peter three times if he loved him. Peter emphatically replied in the affirmative and Jesus directed him to feed his sheep.
I had the opportunity to be in that same place two years ago. Over time, the water level of the Sea of Galilee has dropped. Now the shore is much wider than it was in the first century. The receding water revealed a series of large rocks that were used as anchor stones for the fishing boats at the time of Jesus. Each of these stones is carved in the shape of a heart. I do not know the original intention of the shape, but it seems appropriate to have heart shaped stones in that place where Jesus spoke of loving him and feeding his sheep.
Love and action have always been inseparable partners. A person cannot love God without a loving outlook toward neighbors. Therefore, in all Judeo-Christian (as well as other religious) traditions, looking out for others is mandatory. In fact, Jesus clearly stated (Matt. 21) that when the poor are fed, the naked clothed, and the sick are tended, etc. it is a deed received by God. This is how we feed his sheep.
It is good to live in a community in which that mandate is taken seriously! In Kent County, there are dozens of food pantries. Access of West Michigan (a supervising agency) reported that over 6,500 families, representing almost 20,000 individuals, are fed in Kent County through the loving donations of industries, churches, schools, and service organizations each month! In our own church (Holy Spirit Episcopal Church), together with our wonderful partners at Assumption Roman Catholic Church, Loaves and Fishes Pantry of Belmont distributed over 24,000 food items last year. I know many of you have similar stories of generosity.
When people are hungry, or sick, or cold, life becomes pretty basic. The response is also pretty basic. Without question we are to support those in our communities with special needs. Let us all remember to keep giving to local food pantries, volunteer at a center or shelter, and be aware of the people around us. Simply put, that is what Jesus told us to do when he gave the directive to feed the sheep. In the first century, the Rabbi Hillel reiterated the simplicity of God’s command, “Do unto your neighbor as you would have them do unto you; all the rest is commentary.”