and fed His lambs? When the Lord returned from the tomb, He had a conversation with Peter: (John 21:15-17)
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
He gave similar instructions to the disciples in Matthew 25. We are to see His image in all people no matter how corrupted or marred that image may be. Because of this, when we feed, clothe, comfort or visit another, we are doing it directly for Him. So what if the Church took these instructions to heart and made it a key component of our mission. Specifically, what if we started by feeding His lambs. Not just once a month or once a week, but every day. Not possible we hear, we don’t have the resources, it’s too much, etc.
Well, wait a minute…
This is the tiny vegetable garden that we nurture in our backyard. Not very big at all and nurture is hardly the right word. My wife and I are not urban farmers, to be sure. We dug up the dirt, stirred in some manure, poked the seeds into the ground and gave a little water every so often. That mass of greenery at the back of the picture is four little squash mounds; two Zucchini and two Yellow Squash. These plants, with all of the lack of attention that we can muster and all of the abuse they receive by getting clipped back so that they stay in the yard, being walked through by the dogs, and the searing south sun and upper nineties temperatures we have had nearly every day this summer, these plants provide more produce than several families can eat! We share the bounty with the neighbors and friends and still we have fresh vegetables and herbs beyond what we can use. After we have shared and eaten vegetables in every conceivable recipe, we still find ourselves with leftovers.
If an inexperienced gardener like myself can produce bushels of fresh vegetables far beyond my own needs I’m led to wonder why the Church can’t replicate this on a larger scale for the good of those around us. Many churches, especially suburban and rural churches, are surround by some measure of unpaved area covered by grass, shrubbery and trees. What if we took a small (or large) section of this ground and turned it over to a productive purpose such as growing low maintenance vegetables for the benefit of the community. They could be shared with the immediate neighbors of the church, taken down to the rescue mission, canned and placed in the food cupboard, or cooked and served to those in desperate need of a good meal. The possibilities of this ministry are endless. The gardeners could teach others to cultivate some simple plants (like those monsters in my garden) to provide for themselves. Mission teams can take the lessons of low-requirement, high-yield farming to those they wish to serve.
I’m certainly not proposing anything original here. The Spirit moved me to take a look at the possibilities and I saw the abundance I have through fresh eyes. The Bible confronts me every day, as it must everyone, with the words of God. One wonders why we don’t always take them seriously.