by Minister of Outreach Patrick Meagher
On Maundy Thursday, we dedicated a full day of Holy Week to Jesus’ command to follow his example and wash one another’s feet. If you’re like me, one of the hardest times to accept this mandate is at the freeway off-ramp where a broken face holding a scrawled sign awaits. HOMELESS VET / WILLING TO WORK. SINGLE MOM / ANYTHING HELPS. Or sometimes simply GOD BLESS.
I’m often asked how to handle these situations. We all know the dangers of over-indulgence, and yet to do nothing gnaws at our sense of decency, not to mention our call to be servants. Unfortunately, my response doesn’t usually satisfy. I honestly don’t know what should be done. The problem with telling you what to do is that I’m not there to listen to what God may be stirring in your heart. It’s only natural in our culture of efficiency that we would want a formula or a “best practice” to apply to these situations, but God offers us a relationship instead.
Being aware of our motivation for helping someone affords a greater possibility of living out God’s call. Do we want to provide help so the person will go away, or to alleviate our guilt (like an ibuprofen pill will alleviate a headache)? These all-too-common motivations are understandable, but lead us away from relationship, and outside of God’s call to love our neighbors. Instead of looking for a best practice, I encourage you to become attuned to God’s prompting in your soul. You have unique gifts, resources, and ways of loving people that I don’t have. God wants to use those to spread the Kingdom of Heaven.
In light of my unhelpful advice to wait on God’s inspiration, there are some guidelines I think we can keep in mind. I do not advocate giving money away for all the reasons we already know about. One idea is to keep $10 Subway gift cards, or small packs of non-perishable food in your car to hand out. If you like, you can print out this link on our website listing free hot meals in northwest Seattle, and offer it. At least one free meal is available every day of the week in this part of Seattle.
If you choose this route, I encourage you to remember the call toward relationship. Even if you have nothing material to give, you can learn someone’s name. Perhaps ask them where they’re from, or where they are going. Tell them you’ll be thinking about them. You might see them again, and a relationship can grow from your kindness.
Easter is a season to consider how to live in light of the resurrection. For the disciples, the presence of a resurrected Christ often created more questions and ambivalence than before, yet stirred their hearts toward a deeper commitment to follow Jesus. God is waiting to guide us through this season and through our efforts to live out the Maundy Thursday call to service. May we listen and follow this call.